S.C. Hickman (earth_wizard) wrote,
S.C. Hickman

Alien Manifesto: The Interrogation of the Real - Speculations on Realism and Materialism

"What we witness in this time is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World turning into Rave New World.  A world in which the well known and the so called lines between mind and body, fantasy and reality, nature and culture, organic and inorganic, life and death, are not just blurred, but have completely disappeared. And yet, at the same time, these lines are in the process of reappearance."
    -Cengiz Erdem

                                                               Alien Manifesto:

                                                       The Interrogation of the Real -
                                                Speculations on Realism and Materialism

In a time when all boundaries between the real and unreal begin to fade, mutate, wander or waver and blur under the pressure of thought's duplicitous force, when the rendering of the human turns unhuman, - and we begin to see beyond all thought of the human a dark horizon glimmering on the edge of the great frontier of Being, portending a return of that which for so long has lain hidden in the excluded, reviled, tormented Umwelt of the absolute real - we once again renew the struggle within the life/death drives stirring within and without us, moving beyond the threshold of our own surrounding world, discovering in those monstrous entities emerging from their thick lairs inside and outside: a strangeness, a fecundity of incommensurable forces surging through all things, preying upon the very fabric of the real like bottom feeders from some hyperdimensional realm of chaos. These alien parasites seek in the bright jewel of our universe a consummation to their nihilistic life, burrowing into and permeating our dark chemistry, entering into our fleshly existence through genetic mutations exterior to all relation except that of objects connected and connecting only in the moment of relation, co-evolving with us in a terrible enthronement of that principle of mastery that resolves itself as sheer nihil.

In the face of such monstrous pressures from within and without we struggle to free ourselves, turning the very weapons of thought against these dark intrusions, reforging the links to a speculative philosophy that might help us emerge from our zombied existence, and once again walk in the gardens of Being - if not like gods, then like alien ambassadors of a new order of the real who have seen for the first time the truth of our alienness. For being alien is not what you think it is, it is not an invasion from without by those forces that seek to take from us the very subsistence of our hard work, our labour; no, instead the alien is the immanent pressure within us all to regain that affective paradise of the real against which all thought flees: the monstrous truth at the core of our own nothingness - that we have already-always been alien; it is the very life of being as Being.

                                                                     *   *   *

"I am happy that it is not merely a continuation of classical metaphysics nor an end of it. In this sense I am in agreement with the word realism. We are beyond the end of metaphysics and classical metaphysics with the term realism. The question of realism as opposed to materialism is not a crucial question today. What is important is that it is not correlationist or idealist. It is a new space for philosophy, one with many internal differences but this is a positive symptom."
    - Alain Badiou

"The problem is not ‘can we penetrate through the veil of subjectively-constituted phenomena to things-in themselves’, but ‘how do phenomena themselves arise within the flat stupidity of reality which just is, how does reality redouble itself and start to appear to itself’. For this, we need a theory of subject which is neither that of transcendental subjectivity nor that of reducing the subject to a part of objective reality. This theory is, as far as I can see, still lacking in speculative realism."
      - Slavoj Zizek

But which speculative path to follow? Do we go the way of the realists or the materialists in our speculative philosophy, both of whom find in speculation a profound remedy against all correlationist, for whom anti-realism of the post-Kantian self-world axis qualifies as a sovereign humanism; or, shall we discover an alternate path: one more attuned to the deliberations of a thought free of both deliriums? Or, is this, too, a vanity?

At one end of the spectrum is the philosopher as scientist and transcendental materialist. One of its foremost spokesman, Ray Brassier says this: "materialism as we understand it is nothing but the conviction that science -whether it be that of Copernicus, Darwin, or Einstein- is the formulator of truths endowed with a quasi-transcendental bearing, rather than the mere promulgator of empirical facts. Consequently, either the philosopher accepts the irrecusable pertinence of scientific truth, and a fortiori, the scientific truth about human being; or he rejects wholesale the notion that science is in any position to formulate truths about man, in which case he subordinates scientific truth to a higher authority: to wit, the putatively unobjectifiable transcendence of human being. The latter option is, it seems to us, fundamentally indicative of the phenomenological stance in philosophy. Unfortunately, the popularity enjoyed by this stance among many contemporary philosophers -whether of a ‘continental’ persuasion or not- does not render it any less repugnant in our eyes" (AT: 18). [1] Yet, from the Hegelian tradition we overhear Slavoj Zizek: "I think the cosmological notion of the ‘purposelessness of life’ is a useless metaphor with no cognitive value. Furthermore, I agree with Jean Laplanche that Freud’s ‘cosmologization’ of life- and death-drive (Eros and Thanatos) was an ideological regression, an index of his inability to think through the consequences of his own discovery. I think that Lacan’s re-conceptualization of the death drive as the ‘immortal’ compulsion-to-repeat simply does a better job, introducing a concept that allows us to think the most basic level of how humans break with the animal domain" (ST: 409). [2]

At the other end of the spectrum is a new phenomenology of the real: the Object-Oriented philosopher. Its founder and foremost spokesman Graham Harman states his position, saying: "I have criticized two opposite ‘radical’ strategies: undermining objects with a deeper principle, or overmining them with a series of visible relations or traits. There is another name besides ‘radical philosophy’ that applies to large portions of both sides of this divide, and that name is ‘materialism’. For materialism can either mean the scientific materialism in which larger entities are explained by tinier physical entities whose qualities certainly do not withdraw from all access or measurement (overmining). Or, it can mean the Bruno/Grant option of a rumbling materia laced with all things, and flouting the good sense of the empirical sciences as we know them (undermining). In this respect, my own position amounts to realism without materialism" (ST: 39-40).

Between these two schisms a chiliastic chiasmus is formed within the speculative turn, where a boundary is reappearing as a thin red line between the opposing camps of a transcendent real, wherein a war for the future of both science and philosophy is at stake. This paper will explore both sides of the issue and resolve it into an enigma, a riddle, or knot of filaments that harbors within its Gordian mesh both the problem and solution; a metaphorical and allegorical dance of speculation that requires ingenuity and careful thinking for its solution.

To speculate is to contemplate, consider, observe, and look at, or view that which is. But this is is that which is beyond us, beyond all forms of human access; and, yet, there is relation, but it is not the relation of self-world, but the relation of objects withdrawn within the void of their own vacuum, but still in communication, connected and connecting to other objects and the surrounding world through the prosthetic appendages, or musical notes of their sensuous phenomenality: that which is revealed as spectre, as that ghostly fleeting image or apparition and appearance of the always-already transcendent real.

Fichte once wrote a letter to Jacobi saying, ""To what end, then, is the speculative point of view, and with it all philosophy, if it belong not to life? Had humanity never tasted of this forbidden fruit, it might indeed have done without philosophy. But there is implanted within us a desire to gaze upon this region which transcends all individuality, not by a mere reflected light, but in direct and immediate vision..." [3] That Fichte was never able to reconcile this speculative insight with his theory of Wissenschaftslehre is besides the point, that he was one of the precursors of a speculative philosophy that sought a return to metaphysics and a way toward a direct and immediate vision of that "region that transcends all individuality" is a marker in the long road of philosophical speculation.

Philosophy took a wrong turn in German Idealisms from Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel unto their modern and postmodern progeny, squandering and depleting its vast resources in a spurious and unfounded human-centered philosophy, that - as Bertrand Russell (1948), states it: "Kant spoke of himself as having effected a ‘Copernican revolution’, but he would have been more accurate if he had spoken of a ‘Ptolemaic counter-revolution’, since he put Man back at the centre from which Copernicus had dethroned him" (HK: 1). [4] It is against this humanistic tenet that speculative philosophers in both its realist and materialist modes vie for a new decentering of philosophical thought and praxis (i.e., a de-anthropomorphizing philosophy of the real devoid of humanist subjectivity and ideological practices). 


This is a work in progress... all comments are welcome! 

An Outline of my current book project:

1. Speculative philosophy: Return to Metaphysics?
2. Speculative materialism: Science and the Hegelian Legacy
3. Speculative realism: Phenomenology and the path to OOO
4. The Speculative Turn: Realism and Materialism at the crossroads of the Real - or, Where do we go from here? 
                                                              *   *   *
1. Ray Brassier, Alien Theory The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter (Universtiy of Warwick April 2002)
2. The Speculative Turn: Continental Materialism and Realism, Levi Bryant, Nick Srnicek and Graham Harman, editors (re.press Melbourne 2011)
3. Memoir of Johann Gottlieb Fichte is taken from Volume I of The Popular Works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte (William Smith trans., Trübner & Co.- London, 4th ed. 1889). 
4. Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits By Bertrand Russell (Routledge classics 1948),  p. 1 
Tags: speculative realism

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