Monthly Archives: April 2009

Leibniz was right!

Stop the presses and re-read your Monadology — Leibniz was right all along!

A new paper argues that even the tiniest of particles have some sort of free will:

It asserts, roughly, that if indeed we humans have free will, then elementary particles already have their own small share of this valuable commodity. More precisely, if the experimenter can freely choose the directions in which to orient his apparatus in a certain measurement, then the particle’s response (to be pedantic—the universe’s response near the particle) is not determined by the entire previous history of the universe.


Some readers may object to our use of the term “free will” to describe the indeterminism of particle responses. Our provocative ascription of free will to elementary particles is deliberate, since our theorem asserts that if experimenters have a certain freedom, then particles have exactly the same kind of freedom. Indeed, it is natural to suppose that this latter freedom is the ultimate explanation of our own.

You can read the paper here.


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The Question of the Future Itself

In Archive Fever, Derrida will write:

The question of the archive is not a question of the past. It is not the question of a concept dealing with the past that might already be at our disposal. An archivable concept of the archive. It is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise, and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The archive, if we want to know what that will have meant, we will only know in times to come; not tomorrow, but in times to come. Later on, or perhaps never.

Could we not take this up within Spectral Realism? We could perhaps perform a simple substitution:

The question of the [spectre] is not a question of the past. It is not the question of a concept dealing with the past that might already be at our disposal. [A spectral] concept of the [spectre]. It is a question of the future, the question of the future itself, the question of a response, of a promise, and of a responsibility for tomorrow. The [spectre], if we want to know what that will have meant, we will only know in times to come; not tomorrow, but in times to come. Later on, or perhaps never.

The spectre defies the normal rules of time and space, or rather, shows us that what we take as everyday is actually a misunderstanding. No thing actually follows the average everyday rules of time and space. I encounter memories in the world, as familiar places becomes places from my past that wash over me and submerge me in memory. The past attaches itself to me, as it makes itself present yet again, never truly dying or disappearing. Never disappearing completely. More familiar though is the spectral looming, the perfect haunting. Derrida of course uses the example of Marx(ism) but we need not be political. The spectre is any entity that could be, any thing that exists as possibility. Spectral reminders, while informing us of the past also point us towards the future (the Holy Spirit both reminds us that we are before God as well as the sacrifice of the Christ, the Ghost in Hamlet tells the protagonist of the murder as well as what must be done, while the ghosts of A Christmas Carol show Past, Present, and indicate the Future Yet to Come).

Spectral Realism is first and foremost a metaphysics of time, an understanding of the past as well as the infinity of the future. I have said before that it is a Messianism. By this I don’t mean necessarily the Messianism of redemption as typified in Christianity, but a more general Messianism, perhaps the most general Messianism, that is to say, a constant looking to the future Yet to Come.

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Nature Always Wins

This is one of the few mantras that I have: “Nature always wins.” It comes from a seminar on Heidegger from a few years ago, when we were discussing the later Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology” and “Building, Dwelling, Thinking.” It’s stuck with me ever since and really reflects my own anti-humanism.

I came across this photo over at Sweet Juniper, and I think it expresses pretty well the dominance that Nature has over us tiny humans.


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Ghosts of Time and Space

This is something I had intended to write when Reza Negarestani first posted his “Memento Tabere: Reflections on Time and Putrefaction,” but due to deadlines, put on the back burner only to forget about it entirely. Fortunately, Ben has just written on it, making me realize that I had yet to write this. So here we are. The essay that Reza writes tries to think through the relationship between time, space, and decay. I have yet to put the Spectral Realist concepts of time and space down in any concrete way, having only implicitly said anything on these concepts. I’ll take this opportunity then to formulate these concepts more concretely using Reza’s essay as a way of navigating these ideas.

Reza will ask:

“What is exactly the role of time in decay, does this role reinscribe the correlationist appropriation of time through experience and presence or does it amount to an idealism which favors and privileges time over space?”

I was to begin by saying that in response to this question, Spectral Realism does say quite simply that time is privileged over space. Space is, like the objects that occupy it, entirely accidental, that is, space and time are not intimately related as in Kant, nor do we find a complicity of time and space as in Reza’s post. Rather, the drives that underly all products exist in time, or to be more precise, the movement of the drives (the movement which they simply are) is time. Were there no objects existing as results of this productivity, there would still be time, there would simply be no visible result of the work of time.

Ghosts can exist without place, but only ever exist in time (history). The act of haunting is always a temporal one, and not necessarily a spacial one.

I hope to elaborate more on spacial hauntings when I have time to write the piece on Walter Benjamin that I promised as Bones of Ghosts II. Until then, it must simply be understood that spectrality is a historical phenomenon in that a ghost is the movement of an entity in time, but that this entity need not ever have taken up space, as is evident in the death drives which themselves are never constituted in space save for the ghosts they move.

But what is this drive-based time? Following Bergson’s concept of duration, we should say that time is the pure mobility of the contraction and expansion of the dual drives. Time is simply the drives themselves as they are nothing more than their infinite mobility toward impossibility, towards absolute expansion and contraction, or, to put it another way, time is the movement of the infinite towards it’s own collapse.

This brings me to the same quote that Ben draws out from Reza’s piece:

We can say that in decay space is perforated by time: Although time hollows out space, it is space that gives time a twist that abnegates the privilege of time over space and expresses the irrepressible contingencies of the absolute time through material and formal means.

Space is nothing more, the Spectral Realist will say, than the result of the tension of the drives, the accidental coming-to-be of things which themselves are driven towards collapse and, so long as there are continual oppositional drives, exist for all time as ghosts in history. We can see then that these ghosts are not on equal footing with time itself (qua drive) but must be the results of the temporal struggle of reality. Space comes to be in time, while time lies beneath all spaciality.

Finally, what then is decay? Decay is the necessary result of space having invaded time, it is the consequence of existence as such. The drives do not decay, only things decay, in fact, all things decay. The decaying of things is a sign of the primacy of time, of destrudo over objects. It is important to note that ghosts, the children of Thanatos, do not rot, but echo for all time as they are pulled indefinitely and unpredictably, growing and spreading just as much as they are decaying and dying.


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Metaphysical Vampires

From a work in progress:

There is a specter haunting the world, the specter of the beginning. The horror that is the beginning looms over all that is, filling the world with despair, our hearts with melancholy. This is a world haunted, always. Filled with the Undead, our world is writhing with the figures of evil, of pain and suffering, of anguish. This is no more clear than in the fear of the vampire, the prince of darkness. The figure of the vampire is the antithesis to that of the Christ. Not romantic in the slightest, the vampire is destruction and desperation, a clinging to something like life without the meaning, the purpose. Only the drive (Trieb) remains, the hunger. They hunger. While the vampire drains all life, destroys being, the Christ bestows life eternally. The vampires of ontology want nothing but to restore the original Nothingness that can never return. They want nothing less than the absolute nothingness of Non-Being; they are the will that wills Nothing, that feels no kinship to the world of things, to existence, but wants only for the pain of hunger to cease.

The Vampire
“The Vampire” by Edvard Munch

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The Art of Fernando Chamarelli

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There are so many things I love about Chamarelli’s work, the first being the level of detail. These paintings are almost Baroque (as in sculpture or architecture) in that it is the sheer amount of little details that make the piece what it is; they border on excessive (there is just too much going on!) but that’s what makes them so great is the insanity of the details. It’s like each piece, which seems to be a portrait of a god-like figure, is an entire world unto itself with mechanics and work going on at every level. That’s actually one of the things I remember vividly of my first reading of Kant’s First Critique: the sheer level of detail which becomes almost nauseating in it’s extreme nature. When I brought it up with my prof, he made the comparison to Baroque sculpture. Ever since, I feel like I’ve been able to at least appreciate it more.

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The Ur-Event in Badiou

I had three finals this semester, two of which are done. I wrote the first on Graham Harman and OOP (on the topic of responsibility). The second was for a seminar on political philosophy, specifically focused on political constitutionalism. The prof said we could write on anything that pertains to the course and its material provided we wrote a proposal and she approved it, otherwise she assigned us a list of topics based on the different readings. Ever the maverick, I proposed to write on Badiou’s reading of Rousseau (the latter was covered in the first week of “background” readings along with Kant, prior to the actual material of the course. Anyway, she approved it and so I wrote a rather frantic paper on the subject.

I’m not thrilled with the final product (I’m much happier with the piece on OOP*, and not only because I got an A+ on it). This is mostly due to the fact that I had a spell of insight while writing it and got distracted with something that had bothered me about Badiou for a while but that I couldn’t fully flesh out in the context of the paper. Basically, I started writing on Badiou and Rousseau and realized that I really wanted to be writing on Badiou and the concept of the Ur-Event. This is something that has been bandied about on various blogs, I think Reid wrote something about it and I want to say Nick has as well, though my memory is terrible. The important thing is, the Ur-Event is a problem for Badiou, something which seems necessary but which he refuses when asked about it. What has bothered me about this is that in Meditation 33 he speaks of the “event-without-event” and describes it in such a way as to say it’s more than the “conditions” we’re used to (art, science, politics, love), and actually seems to be the conditions for the possibility of conditions at all.

I finally figured something out though. He really does seem to have an Ur-Event in his philosophy, whether he wants it there or not. Not only does he need one in order to kickstart the whole chain of events, but it’s entirely connected to what I referred to before as his anthro-ontology or what could perhaps be seen as a sort of transcendental ego at work. I have said before that I agreed with those who claimed the count-as-one remains as a vestigial anthro-centrism that cripples Badiou’s philosophy, seemingly leading him back to some mathematical Fichteanism. I think it’s actually much deeper than that however.

I think the necessary Ur-Event must simply be the birth of humanity as we know it. This is connected directly to his readings of both Rousseau as well as Lacan. He ties his wagon to two foundationalists (actually three if you count Descartes, which I think we must) both of whom connect the origin of humanity with the origin of the Symbolic, literally for Lacan, it’s trickier with Rousseau, though I think working through Rousseau for this essay has given me the necessary material to connect the dots.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m hoping to polish this thing up, taking chunks of this paper I’ve written and turn it into a proper piece on the necessity of the Ur-Event and where Badiou gets it, while also considering where to publish such a piece.

* I’m sure this is something that people would like to read since OOP is still forming itself. I sent the piece to Graham upon completion (with a couple of typos that I missed, oops!) and will gladly post it or publish it or whatever once I’ve gotten some feedback from him.

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