Monthly Archives: March 2009

Herakut / Graffiti

Beautiful works of art from Herakut. One of the things I haven’t written about on here is my love for graffiti. I think it has the power to be absolutely amazing art. My final project for my philosophy of space/architecture class in undergrad was a proposal for a vacant lot, and my proposal ended up being a graffiti park called “Open Space;” which was inspired largely by Baudrillard’s writings on the subject. Along with architecture more generally, I’d like to try to incorporate more art into this blog along with the usual philosophical writings.

Posts are going to be light for the next while, maybe a couple of weeks, as I finish up the semester. I have a lot of writing to do by the 22nd or so. I’m planning on writing an entry on Badiou in the next little while (one of the pieces I’m working on is on Badiou and politics), and as soon as the semester is done, I’ll probably have the next Bones of Ghosts piece written. Expect something on my thesis in the near future as well; my proposal should be approved soon and then I’ll feel comfortable talking about it in more detail.

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Twitter

I just added the Twitter Widget to the sidebar so you can all see how dumb I am in real life (or at least in a less academic setting). Recoil from the Real, etc.

I mostly use Twitter to just be silly with friends, but do on occasion post interesting links and whatnot that don’t make it to the blog.

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Homme-Sick Animals

Watching this video this morning:

I’m so conflicted when it comes to Lacan. On a very deep level, I have an immediate aversion to his thought, I “recoil” from it if you will. It’s almost an unease, and almost disgust. And yet, on another level, I feel like there are important bits within his thought… bits of ore that can be fashioned into something better, and stronger.

Is there any hope for a true realism if Lacan is involved? Can such a strange idealist be saved?

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Darkly Dreaming Subjects (Outside Looking In)

Ben has a new post up, I’m assuming based on his reading of Grant’s book Philosophies of Nature After Schelling.

It’s the following paragraph that I want to focus on:

“The question becomes then, for Schelling, what is the new chain of events brought about by the freedom of man following from the sublation of nature, if ridden of Christian spirit? What becomes the metaphysical purchase of human extension whether symbolic, technological et cetera, if that extension is capable of warping the transcendent production of nature?”

We have to understand first of all what Schelling means first by Freedom, but also the relation of Spirit and Nature, and thus what Schelling means by Consciousness and Unconsciousness. We also need to know something about Schelling’s relation to Christianity.

Freedom is the ground (grund) of Schelling’s metaphysics, made explicit post-1809 with the publication of the Freiheitsschrift and seen in the Weltalter. In these works, Freedom appears as a drive, as the culmination in the drives for contraction and expansion. In the Freiheitsschrift, which is a theogony, Schelling explores the connections between good and evil, the Fall, and God’s emergence from the Abyss through (self-)revelation. Assuming a relationship of macrocosm and microcosm, we can see that this theogony is repeated in the human being through the birth of subjectivity as the emergence of consciousness in nature. What is important is that Schelling maintains the Kantian notion of Freedom as noumenal, that is, existing outside of space and time. Freedom in the Freiheitsschrift is the Freedom of self-creation prior to existence proper, that is, the decision (de-cision) of the self into a before (unconscious) and after (conscious). This self-creation is a throwness, launching the self into the world as either good or evil, a decision which can only ever be understood as unconscious (although more accurately, it is the decision which creates the division).

Prior to the development of the philosophy of freedom, Schelling’s was an ontology of Geist, or Spirit; the language was still of consciousness and unconscious. Schelling will say in 1803 (the new Introduction to his Ideas) that Nature is Unconscious Spirit: Nature images human freedom. The great struggle in Schelling’s early work is his attempt to understand Kant’s Critique of Judgment, specifically, the idea that Nature appears teleological, that it appears free. What Schelling will conclude in his Naturphilosophie is that Nature is a Subject (see his Introduction to Speculative Physics), but is entirely unconscious. While the human being is the product of Nature able to turn back on itself and inspect it’s freedom, the rest of Nature remains unaware. In the First Outline (and again in the Introduction to Speculative Physics), Schelling will use the Spinozist terminology of natura naturans and natura naturata, or, “nature as process” and “nature as product.” While we are able to “warp the transcendent production of nature,” we remain simply products who are aware of natural production. Nature continues producing all around us. It is not as if with the birth of consciousness in the human being, nature shrugs off all responsibility, giving it to the human being. We remain products caught in the flows of Schelling’s metaphysics. Schelling says that all products continue the production of nature in microcosm, that is, the human being is not alone in its freedom, it is simply the only product (that we know of) able to say “I am free.” Again though, this is a noumenal freedom, a freedom outside of all space and time, and therefore outside of the realm of products of nature, existing in the realm of production (I am able to shape myself, but only ever unknowingly).

What I find most curious about Ben’s post is the “if ridden of Christian spirit.” Perhaps he can explain it to me, but Schelling, and his philosophy, is deeply Christian. While it is only made explicit by 1802 (to my knowledge), Schelling was educated by the Pietists, his father having taught the theology of Oetinger and Bengel, both followers of Jakob Bohme, whom Schelling is also almost entirely indebted to. If you can find a copy, Robert Brown’s book The Later Philosophy of Schelling shows clearly the influence of Bohme on the post-1809 work, while I am working now on the influence on the early work (although Hegel and Hermeticism is excellent for understanding Schelling’s education and religious background). What must be understood though is that Schelling is most certainly a Christian, a Christian philosopher, and a follower of Bohme. In 1802, Schelling will even claim that a proper Naturphilosophie can only be Christian and Sergei Bulgakov, in his Philosophy of Economy, makes quite explicit the connection between the two.

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On The Status of the Human in a Vitalist Metaphysics

I’m posting this as a new blog entry rather than attaching it to my last post. I’m hoping to draw together the last couple of entries I’ve written, in an effort to explain, really explain, what the point is that I’ve been trying to make. I was contacted and asked fairly explicitly, what the point of such pop-culture references, and also why I would essentially tie my wagon to a dead horse like vitalism.

What I like about vitalism, my reading of vitalism, which I don’t think has been adequately stated in any single work, or maybe even any single thinker (Deleuze is probably the closest on this front), is the possibility of de-centering the human being in philosophy. Even Bergson goes in the direction of mysticism (although I am poorly read on Bergson, I’m basing this almost exclusively off of secondary sources; also, it should be said that I am generally pro-mysticism, and don’t see it as inherently anthro-centric, but from what I’ve read on Bergson, that is the direction he goes [PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG HERE!]). I think the age of the human subject is due for an overhaul, and the vitalism gives us an interesting, and I think accurate, view of the cosmos. My posts on Swamp Thing(s) and Batcats are attempts to show the metaphysical contingency of the human subject. The subject is not the center of the cosmos, only Nature is! (Nature of course being taken as the totality of metaphysical processes and products, of which we are but tiny instances.)

The example of Swamp Thing is especially helpful here: it shows the possibility of Nature making a humanoid (a vegeman) that in it’s mere delusion of being human, becomes more than human, actually becomes more powerful than the human being it dreams of being. The Swamp Thing as Nature embodied, in an attempt at mimicking the human, surpasses the human. Both the Batcat and the Swamp Thing (along with Lovecraftian Old Ones) show clearly that the human being, while imagining itself as lord and master of Nature, of the whole cosmos, is really insignificant, and easily snuffed out.

We need not even go into (science)fiction to see this, although the examples are more vivid. Parasites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses all trounce humans on a regular basis, while weather and geology can ruin our greatest cultural achievements. We depend wholly on Nature and yet often forget that we are its product, and not its master. The human subject, rationality as a whole, cannot conquer the drive of infinite Nature. You can’t reason with a parasite, and for this reason, Nature always wins. That is, human reason is finite, and easily extinguishable. We should never forget this, least of all in our speculative philosophy.

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A Triumphant Irruption of the Plant in Us

Check this out: Zarathustra vs. the Muck-Encrusted Mockery of a Man!

Courtesy of BldgBlog (although actually found on his twitter).

Swamp Thing

I had never made the connection between the Swamp Thing and Nietzsche before, but remembering back to my childhood (when I was a pretty big comic book fan, one of only a few in my small town), the connection seems obvious.

– Swamp Thing is an example of the Eternal Return (going by Alan Moore’s version). There have always been Swamp Things defending The Green, and it seems there always will be.

– Swamp Thing is More-Than-Man. In the initial version, he was a human who became part plant and gained superhuman powers, whereas in Moore’s retelling, he was a vegetable-entity who dreamed he was a human. I think the latter case is actually superior in this situation. The vegeman was without human flaws (obviously, he would have his own), was quite literally infinite (could regenerate, but also could reincarnate) as his identity is not “this human being,” but “this infinite underground network of plant-stuff.” Is the Swamp Thing rhizomal-man?

I’ll have to end this here, I have a seminar on Freud and Lacan that I have to prepare for. I may add to this later when I’ve thought more about it (I feel like I have a lot to say about this “plant in us”).

Title taken from Deleuze/Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus.

Swamp Thing

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The Horror of the Unknown

One of the reasons I feel such a kinship with vitalism is the ability to account for the horror of the unknown; vitalism is by necessity an incomplete system, and as such, it is always able to account for new discoveries in both the organic and the inorganic realms. Examples of this can be seen through out science, but I think the real test is (science) fiction. Take for example the video for Mogwai’s song Batcat:

Such a horrifying organism can be easily accounted for under a vitalist system. Actually, to perhaps put it better, vitalism can never be surprised in the usual sense, because vitalism is a philosophy of surprise. The vitalist is never truly horrified because they are always anticipating novelty with an understanding that the new or novel is entirely unpredictable. The distinction lies here I think, between an anticipatory philosophy, and a predictable philosophy. An anticipatory system would be an open system, whereas a predictable system is closed. What this means is that the latter will take new evidence or data and format it for the system, whereas the former is always readjusting to the new.

As soon as you de-privilege the human being by accepting that Nature is active production, with no final cause (save the impossible, cf. my final section on Messianism in “Towards a Proper Introduction to Spectral Realism”), then the human being becomes just a product among products. The human is no longer the apex of the system, as there is no Final Product. As soon as this move is made, you allow for the non-human to surpass the human. You allow, with this small move, for Lovecraftian Old Ones, for Batcats, but also for inorganic structures the ability to destroy the de-privileged structure of the human subject. Such a system appears horrific to the subjectivist, but to the vitalist, it’s simply the structure of the cosmos, a parade of horribles.

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