Monthly Archives: July 2009

Failing the Rorschach

Rorschach Inkblot

The New York Times reports on the debate involving the posting of the ten plates of the Rorschach test to Wikipedia. There are two fundamental issues here and I find myself torn between the opposing sides. On the one hand, I largely share the information-libertarian view of the Wikipedians, information should be free to distribute and use, and of course the fact that the copyright has expired on the inkblots doesn’t hurt their case. On the other hand, it could theoretically hinder the effectiveness of the test, because not only have the inkblots themselves been posted, but included are the most common answers according to psychological research. Again, I find myself torn between the politics and the ethics of this situation.

It reminds me of a story that Zizek tells of his time in Paris, when he was undergoing analysis with Jacques-Alain Miller. Zizek knew, as I’m sure Lacan and Miller did as well, that with the knowledge of Lacanian psychoanalysis, it is nearly impossible for a true analysis. He also tells the story of one of his analyst friends who had a patient who would self-analyse, saying that things must relate to their relationship to their mother, etc, etc. I suppose what I’m really wondering about is the relationship here between knowledge and health. We seem to naturally assume that with knowledge, health will increase. I read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food recently (that was my email that Graham posted a while back about Pollan and OOP), and one of his central arguments is essentially that science, while trying to find out what it is that makes food healthy, makes it much less healthy. This combined with the Lacanian anecdotes and this more recent developments leads me to ask, can we only be healthy through ignorance? For all of its relations to science, how do the “speculative realists” (if the term can even still be used) compare on this issue? Coming from my background in Schelling and Hermeticism, health is explained as the sought-after balance, as an unstable yet desired equilibrium, but this balance is only truly achievable through knowledge (and incredibly difficult to maintain!). Is this even an issue that contemporary philosophy wants to deal with or is even able to deal with? Or are we left with the medical sciences, biology, and chemistry? Is a new philosophy of health possible?

[ADDENSUM: Courtesy of Ian Bogost’s twitter, a piece in the New York Times on the definition of health. Lots to chew over.]

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How it would be, if a house was dreaming

Simply amazing 3D projection by Urbanscreen.

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Announcing Death Drive

This is rather premature, but I wanted you guys to know that I’ve been asked to expand my essay on Lacano-Zizekian Death Drive and Vitalism into a book, tentatively titled simply Death Drive. I’ve been outlining and outlining, and it looks like it’s going to be six chapters plus an introduction, though one of the chapters may be broken in two depending on how it goes (it looks to be the longest chapter by far, and so may benefit from being broken up). So it looks like I’ll be writing even more on the death drive here than I thought, since that is now two essays, and a book on the subject (though there will be much crossover, I’m sure).

Again, this is pretty far off since so little is even written yet, but with posting being so light here lately I thought I would fill you guys in. Here’s a brief blurb on the thrust of the book:

In Death Drive, Michael Austin boldly claims that psychoanalysis provides the ultimate philosophy of life, connecting it with Hollywood’s undead.

This means I can also look forward to more frequent zombie nightmares as I write this (two nights in a row and counting)!

PS: I’m also still working on a piece on Derrida that is somewhat related to all of this since it’s on Archive Fever, I’ll keep you all posted on that as well.


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Meillassoux’ Spectral Dilemma

I’m introducing Meillassoux’ “Spectral Dilemma” (from Collapse IV) and leading the discussion at tomorrow’s Jockey Club. This means I also have to introduce his work more generally. I know basically what I want to say, but was wondering what you all think I should highlight about this essay in particular and his work more generally. I’ve read After Finitude and this essay, but that’s about it, so if people can reference important points from other works, that would be especially interesting and helpful. Basically, I’m planning on introducing his critique of correlationism, and his turn through his own speculative materialism to absolute contingency (Chaos), which is really the ground for this essay in particular. Anything else that should be covered?

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Zizek on Death Drive

As I have said numerous times before, I disagree with what Zizek calls the “naive” reading of Freud’s death drive. I am not proposing some radical re-reading of Freud, rather, I agree with the Lacano-Zizekian reading which has existed for some time and is quite nicely summed up in the following quote:

“On the philosophico-ontological level, this is what Lacan is aiming at when he emphasizes the difference between the Freudian death drive and the so-called “nirvana principle” according to which every life system tends toward the lowest level of tension, ultimately toward death: “nothingness” (the void, being deprived of all substance) and the lowest level of energy paradoxically no longer coincide, that is, it is “cheaper” (it costs the system less energy) to persist in “something” than to dwell in “nothing,” at the lowest level of tension, or in the void, the dissolution of all order. It is this distance that sustains the death drive: far from being the same as the nirvana principle (the striving toward the dissolution of all life tension, the longing for the return to original nothingness), the death drive is the tension which persists and insists beyond and against the nirvana principle. In other words, far from being opposed to the pleasure principle, the nirvana principle is its highest and most radical expression. In this precise sense, the death drive stands for its exact opposite, for the dimension of the “undead,” of a spectral life which insists beyond (biological) death.” (The Puppet and the Dwarf, 93)

As I have two projects this summer that are essentially examinations of the Lacano-Zizekian death drive (one on popular culture, and one in terms of vitalism), this is probably not the last I will be speaking of this over the next couple of moths.


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A single ray of light…

“A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times, may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes of nature.” — Nikola Tesla

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A couple of people from the blog have added me to Facebook, which is completely fine, I don’t mind at all. All I ask is that if I don’t know you, or won’t recognize your real name, then please tell me that you know me (that you read my blog or whatever). I only ask because I’d hate to deny peoples friend requests when they aren’t trying to spam or something. The last couple of people have listed that they were fans of Badiou, Deleuze, etc, so I basically figured they found me through the blog. So yeah, just let me know in the little text box if you want to add me so I don’t turn you down.

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Dead Fawn (Things which are alike, in nature, grow to look alike)

“Nonhuman species obey only the law of vitality, but humanity in its distinctive features is through and through necrocratic.” — Robert Pogue Harrison, The Dominion of the Dead

One of my favourite scenes from one of my favourite films (Dead Man, directed by Jim Jarmusch). See also Kevin’s post on finding a dead fawn to see another way to mourn.


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thunderbirds tweeting at dawn / history and ghostly objects

Can’t sleep. The sun’s starting to come up, though with the fog it’s hard to tell (there’s a reason why the locals call this Fog City). The birds are starting to sing their morning songs.

Every week I walk downtown to George Street, which is infamous for having the most bars and pubs per square foot in North America. Every Friday, the Jockey Club gets together to talk philosophy. We have a deal with one of the pubs there where they open early for us (4:30, we’re usually there until 6:30 or so) and we give them regular business for the trouble.

Every week I tell myself I’ll bring my camera to get a photo of a particular piece of graffiti that I love. I am always sure to walk by it on the way there, just to make sure no one has covered over it. Every week I forget to bring my camera. It turns out someone on Flickr already had a great photo of the Thunderbird.


I love everything about this piece, from the design itself, to the dripping halo of colour around it, to the wear and tear, the scrapes and gashes. This is a perfect example of what I mean when I talk about history; I don’t mean some grand system or synthesis. What I mean by history is this, the simple fact that over time (that is, through the work of drive) things change, pieces and relations fall away, while new things attach themselves to the object. These “missing” pieces aren’t truly missing however, as the absences continue to affect the thing, with both the former pieces as well as the gaps coming to define the thing. That is to say, the thing is never merely it’s current properties or relations, but is also in some way all of it’s past forms, as well as its future forms.

Where Graham says that there are dark recesses within objects that are never touched, I see the gap here in the existence of history. It is because the thing is always missing pieces (both the pieces it has lost as well as those it has yet to take on, both of which are part of the thing), existing in this awkward spectral state, that thought fails to grasp the expanse of Being, and ultimately why I’m not doing a new correlationism. This is also why I think hauntology, an acknowledgement of things never being entirely present (in fact, claiming that absolute presence and absence are both impossible), is first philosophy.

I need to try to get some sleep.

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Pixel DJ

Glitched out goodness for your eye meat.

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