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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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Ghosts of Time and Space

  1. Ben Woodard

    Maybe this is a silly question but would ghosts continue to exist after all humans – or do they only exist for humans (in a correlationist sense)? Do the drives continue pulsing towards the infinite in ghostly universe after all the bio-mass has rotted away?

    Also, have you ever read Ghostly Matters? It’s an interesting text on hauntology but I have not seen it discussed anywhere.

  2. By ghosts I mean any entity that has existed or will exist, it is any thing with a little bit of being. Ghosts are not necessarily human, but any entity at all (including concepts, ideas, or memories).

    The drives are eternal and not dependent on any matter whatsoever. This is why time takes precedence over space. Recall the early Schelling, where productivity (or process, or drives) is the cause of temporary products (things or ghosts in my terminology).

    I haven’t read Ghostly Matters, but I’ll look into it. Thanks.

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