February 27th, 2011

S.C. Hickman

Ray Brassier: Death, Cosmic Schizophrenia, and Nick Land's Accelerationism

"He proposes to radicalise critique, to convert the ideal conditioning of the representation of matter to the material conditioning of ideal representation. In the Landian apparatus, materiality is construed solely as the production of production. Transcendental materialism in its Landian version becomes a materialization of critique."
     - Ray Brassier,


Ray Brassier wants to save Land from himself and "show that it’s possible to rehabilitate the powers of the negative" for a philosophy that is both a materialist critique and a materialization of critique. He tells us that Land's texts bristle with sublimated fury, "a kind of non-conceptual negativity..., and that's what makes them really powerful." Matter is the key. We do not so much think as matter thinks us. As Brassier says "Land claims thinking is a function of materiality... The claim is that matter itself is synthetic and productive." Land is a Schellingian in that elimination of the transcendental subject and the brokering of a "self-synthesizing potency of what he called intensive materiality" is the central motif running through his works.   

Brassier sees this strain in Land's thought as a weakness causing some difficulties for a materialist subversion of Kantianism and the elimination of the Bergsonian component in Deleuze's thought. Why? The connection between thought and being, the Parmenidian flaw. If thought and being are reduced to base matter and productivity that leaves no room for access to either thought or being since both are produced not given. As Brassier states it: "He’s doing a kind of materialist metaphysics, and there’s an issue about what kind of traction this extraordinarily sophisticated conceptual apparatus can gain upon the process of primary production, the real as intensive difference, matter in itself, whatever you want to call it."

Brassier's basic take on this is that without a legitimating epistemological registrar for his metaphysics Land is left with a hyper-accelerationist intensification of the primary process of production that is "incoherent, because matter itself as primary production, or death, is not translatable into any register of affective experience or affective intensity." Ultimately any transcendental materialism must have a limiting factor or material constraint placed upon this accelerationist process, what Brassier terms a "transcendental speed limit". But for Land there are no limits only "death, or cosmic schizophrenia." 

Land strips 'agency' from the equation, and for Brassier this is a fatal mistake, for if the "continuation or intensification of the process demands the elimination of humanity as a substrate for the process" then success would breed elimination not only of humans but all agency. If this were to happen there would only remain the bizarre machinic process of absolute production. Yet, as Land tells us, this is no problem: “it’s happening anyway and there is nothing you can do about it.”    

Yet, even here Brassier sees that Land's dark turn toward pure productive process itself can be turned against him, as in the political sphere; for "once you dissociate tactics and strategy–the famous distinction between tactics and strategy where strategy is teleological, transcendent, and representational and tactics is immanent and machinic–if you have no strategy, someone with a strategy will soon commandeer your tactics. Someone who knows what they want to realize will start using you. You become the pawn of another kind of impersonal force, but it’s no longer the glamorous kind of impersonal and seductive force that you hoped to make a compact with, it’s a much more cynical kind of libertarian capitalism."

So Brassier sees in Land the failure of a Parmenidian turned deadly, one that has forgotten that the fine line between thought and being cannot and should not be fused but should be broadened by subtler demarcations of an epistemological kind. Accelerationism on this account leads to a process that ends in cosmic entropy without bounds, where all thought of agency is left behind and the only thing left is absolute productivity as an intensive accelerating process that knows only its own unlimited power for destruction. But, then again, isn't this just another name for that unmitigated process of acceleration we call Capital?

1. Accelerationism: Ray Brassier (9.20.2010)
S.C. Hickman

Catalytic Art or Object Art: a difference that makes a difference...

Object Art: Plastique Revel
Michael over at Archive Fire posted this:

"The function of art as an object is to generate acts of cognition which increase our capacity for imagination. An uneasy relationship between two entities - the created and the creator - then forms to mark off boundaries where each object can be expressed in the world."

In response I posted this:

The function of an object as art is to generate objects that increase our relations to the greater assemblage of objects we call the universe. All art is an achieved anxiety: the ambivalence of objects is in their dual inheritance: the real that forever recedes from our grasp, and the sensual that forever exceeds our grasp; the unity of the two is just that ambivalence we call the artistic object.

S.C. Hickman

Nick Land: Quote of the Day!

"However else it is possible to divide Western thinking, one fissure can be teased-open separating the theo-humanists—croaking together in the cramped and malodorous pond of Anthropos—from the wild beasts of the impersonal. The former are characterized by their moral fervour, parochialism, earnestness, phenomenological disposition, and Aborting the human race sympathy for folk superstition, the latter by their fatalism, atheism, strangely reptilian exuberance, and extreme sensitivity for what is icy, savage, and alien to mankind."
     - Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation
S.C. Hickman

Tim Morton: HyperObjects 4.0; or, What Chthulu and Global Warming Have In Common

"We do not live any longer in the confines of our own practicable fields, in a human world. Our eyes are relayed by the eyes of astronauts in outer space. We see our own planet from beyond, a colored stone in the immensity of cosmic voids."
     - Alphonso Lingis, The Dreadful Mystic Banquet
from Janus Head

hyper object 4.0I was finally able to listen to Tim Morton from Ecology without Nature fame tonight give his Hyper Objects 4.0 Rutgers Eco Conference mp3 recording: it was an eye-opening experience to say the least. His talk took on that warmth and humor we've all learned to appreciate from Tim, as he moved easily through a passionate discourse with an acumen and aplomb that few in this age can reach. His ability to not only explain but to illustrate his thoughts with example after example from high and low culture is both interesting and helps guide the listener toward a difficult understanding of a conceptual framework which is as he stated "being rethought even as he speaks it." I like it that a philosopher can admit that his knowledge is always in the stage of happening, performative and always moving through those reflective loops of revisioning that make all literature and philosophy alive and an ongoing process in development; one that is contingent upon both time and accident, letting new ideas invade it as it continually grows and organizes itself around an essential set of objects, rather than concepts, that are themselves open to change.  

Climate for Tim is seen within the "totality of derivatives of weather events" and yet, "climate as such is a beast  newly recognized by the collaboration of weather, scientists, satellites, and government agencies... this beast includes the sun since its infrared heat from the sun that is trapped by the greenhouse effect of gases such as CO2. So global warming is a colossal entity that includes entities that exist beyond earth's atmosphere, and yet it affects us here intimately right here and now. Global Warming covers the entire earth, and most of its effects extend forward 500 years into the future."     

The idea is that global warming is a transdimensional entity or Hyper Object that is "massively distributed in time and space. You can't see it or touch it directly, you can't even think about it, supercomputers using terabytes of ram and processing speed can just about model it in real time." Yet, more than that is is here. The rain and sun; or, as he says, the "wet stuff" and the "burning stuff" that touches our bodies with its physical materiality "turns out to have been a false immediacy, an ontic prejudice smuggled into the realm of ontology and into a pseudo-reality that cannot stand up to the presence of an invisible but far more real global climate."

Global warming is seen as not only a big problem, but along with "melting glaciers it has melted our ideas" of world and worldding. He goes on to lambast the humanist philosophers who have had the tools at their disposal to explore global warming, but have now been exposed to be of little use in helping us understanding either the weather or our climate problems and are now as useless to us as the "proverbial chocolate tea-pot."  

At this point in the lecture Tim reminds us of his turn to Object-Oriented Ontology, a school of thought promoted by Graham Harman, Ian Bogost, Levi Bryant, and himself among others.  What's unique is not that the title of the lecture comes out of this confrontation with OOO and SR, but that for him like many of us it's about the community or network of philosophical blogging itself that has brought a greater awareness to the local and global community and is helping define the ongoing debates both within and outside the Academy. Each of these academic and non-academic artists, philosophers, writers, etc. have helped open a path for a return to a form of thought that exposes the real of the great outdoors. And, even if many of the original philosophers of the SR mode have disputes about the basis of that philosophy, they each still work toward opening us to the great outdoors that has been closed off since Kant. One can see how the academy feels threatened by the SR community as well from this lecture. At the end of it a respondent was allowed a few minutes time to reflect on Tim's ideas. What I listened to from this respondent was a person that was out of his depth in his knowledge of SR or OOO. He seemed to fumble through his lecture trying to undermine Tim's discourse with outmoded philosophical premises that I feel were of dubious value. But what it did show me is that the mainstream academics are finally realizing that there are some new kids in town and they are not going away ever. So they are beginning to realize that...  hmm... they better understand just what it is that SR and, especially, OOO as one of its key variants is about, and just what it is up too. That's why Tim's lecture took the bull by the proverbial horns and went deep into the enemy camp and exposed their dubious hold on their precious philosophical human(isms)istic pretensions.

For me it's the energy and intellectual courage Tim offers us in his dynamic approach to these difficult concepts, metaphors, hyperboles, and objects: the sheer poetry of his eco-phenomenological or dark ecological approach, which is also based on an equally stringent understanding of just what the real means and what an object realism entails that makes his contribution both unique and different. For environmental concerns are one of those objects that we should all take more time to understand and get involved with both locally and globally, and Tim Morton gives us the tools necessary for both understanding and as a guide through the maze of daunting infinity of information in an enlightened and equitable manner that does not belittle one's intelligence but awakens it to the transcendent real. One might say Tim is our Socratic Buddahman, a philosopher with an West/East face that looks both ways at once, much like that fabled Janus. Like a Shelleyian Prophet or Poet of the Object Revolution he wanders the terrasphere of our terrestrial ecoworlds exposing the hidden stories of objects strewn across the timewaves of our planetary history.  

The rest of his speech explores in depth the full gamut of his philosophical concept of Hyper Objects, but I will leave that to the reader to experience first hand his views of everything from H.P. Lovecraft's Chthulu to the power of OOO to inform and guide our ongoing philosophical adventures and debates.

Go to Tim's site and listen to his excellent lecture...