Tag Archives: spectral realism

Lovecraft the spectral realist

Lovecraft has one again become bedside reading for me. I found this quote the other night in “The Shadow Out of Time” and thought I’d share:

Had something been groping blindly through time from some unsuspected abyss in Nature?

I love it.


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The Eternal And Necessary Bond Between Politics and Ontology: Some Notes On The Nature Of Artifice

I wanted to write something on ontology and politics since it’s been going around. I haven’t had a chance to read the posts by Ben and Reid regarding this issue, so this may be painfully out of date and for that I apologize. I always worry when a hot topic goes around and I know that both Ben and Reid have commented on the issue that I will simply be repeating them. This comes largely as notes on Nina’s original post and Nick’s follow-up. It is not meant to be conclusive, but simply a statement of belief regarding the relationship of ontology and the political.

I can understand the theory that brought these ideas forth, I have even made similar arguments against someone in my department (a post-Marxist who draws on Deleuze and Negri and insists that ontology is inherently political). What I am concerned about is more of an epiphenomena of such a critique. I accept Nick’s claim that Being (and it’s study) should not be hindered by one’s politics; monarchists have just as much access to reality as Marxists. I do however worry about what such a sharp divide does for ontology.

One of the things I very much dislike about Badiou is that for him philosophy is very much reactionary. It is always the result of someone working within one of the conditions and then applying such advances, discoveries, or beliefs to philosophy. It strikes me that this is what is at root of both Nina’s and Nick’s writings on the relation of politics and ontology. It seems very much like a Reese’s problem, as if the history of thought said: “you got your politics in my ontology,” “you got your ontology in my politics,” and now we are looking to separate the two. I don’t think ontology is inherently political, reality is not conservative or liberal or capitalist or communist, it is what it is. That being said, I don’t think the division can be stated so strongly. Politics are a part of reality, as part of humanity they are an emergent property of the real, that is, Nature. There is nothing artificial about politics. One of the points of Nina’s original post was that there is a necessary split between politics and ontology, even if it is entirely artificial. There is no such thing as artificiality. All is Nature. As such, we must consider politics as entirely natural. I am very much an Aristotelian in this way (or perhaps a pre-modern or anti-modern), we should look to Nature in order to understand our own political struggles. This is exactly why I have proposed a loose outline of survivalism, a form of ethics and politics that takes the health and well-being of systems as its goal.

It is not then that politics have infected metaphysics, ontology is not in itself political. What is the political though? I think it can be defined as essentially “the development and maintenance of systems of things and relations.” At it’s most basic politics are a complex system of relations. Ontology as I understand it, the study of Nature (the only realm of existents), is also relational. It would follow then that the study of one will necessarily involve the understanding of the other. We must be clear however that I grant no sacredness to the political the way Nick seems to, politics are the logical extension of a thing able to act on those systems which generated it, just as ontology and ethics are studies which develop from specific things in reality (complex animal organisms), so too is the political able to act on on its own ground. This is consequential of the outgrowth of consciousness in Nature: organisms can now act rather than simply react. In this sense I grant politics to all relational organisms, or rather, all organisms able to act on their own systems of relations. This means, again, that politics are not sacred. I see nothing special in human politics except that we are more partial to them because we are implicated in their development and decisions. I’m sure if the politics of bees had an impact on me I would be much more concerned with their network of workers and queens, but as it stands the system of human relations are just another system. Certainly I would not stand for political decisions that I see as unethical or unjust, but that does not make such systems holy, only of more concern for my wellbeing. To repeat, I see Nature as inherently relational, and I see the political to be nothing more than a complex system of relations. It follows then than we should, following Aristotle and many others, attempt to understand the political through an understanding of Nature-itself.


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Some Notes on Relationality – Mourning

The First Mourning

– All things exist in relation to other things. There is no thing that exists in isolation.

– There is no isolation because no thing is complete, but is historical. This means that even if a thing never relations to any other thing, it will at least relate to other instances of itself (past or future selves).

– If no being is ever complete then ontology as the study of Being qua static presence is useless as static presence is impossible. We will hereby discard ontology in favour of hauntology, that is, the study of spectral being, becoming and unbecoming, the raveling and unraveling of beings across time.

– Since all things are incomplete (historical) beings, their relations must themselves be incomplete because they too are historical, that is, always coming to be and passing away. It follows that if a thing is always changing due to time, then that things relations are themselves constantly changing as the thing takes up new relations and no longer relates to other things. Partial objects have fleeting relations.

– If hauntology is first philosophy then there are two starting points for metaphysics: either we begin with coming to be or we begin with passing away. I am not yet sure what difference this makes and so will begin with the latter, passing away.

– All beings are in mourning. What do we mean by mourning? Mourning is the other side to haunting. It is essentially the residue of a relation which is carried on by a thing with more existence. Nothing is impossible. This should be taken literally, nothingness itself is impossible; things always persist through relations, across history (across time). Haunting/Mourning, a persistence beyond existence. Any relation between entities of unequal existence can be said to be a relation of haunting/mourning (depending on which perspective is taken).

– But what is mourning? What is it to mourn or be mourned?

– When a relation passes away, fading out, it does not simply dissolve. There is a process whereby the network of relations is altered by the newfound gap. I catch myself thinking another that isn’t there, not any more. We catch ourselves relating (in this case thinking, feeling) the gap. The network must be reformed anew.

– “My double is wandering through the networks…” (Jean Baudrillard. Impossible Exchange, Verso, 2001:15). Not exactly “double,” though you do persist. We should say rather, “Pieces of me cling throughout the networks.”

– I am covered in these pieces of history. They stick to me and try as I might I cannot shake them off.

– These pieces of history define me in some way. These pieces of you become pieces of me. These pieces of me become pieces of you.

– I am always mourning because I am always in relation to the past. History forces itself on me, on everything. Everything is always mourning. Sometimes it’s simply more pronounced. Sometimes I mourn even more.


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Some Notes On Relationality- What I Know So Far

– What does it mean for a human being to be connected? When is one wired and where does this wiring go? Is the wiring visible like a marionette, or are we all wireless now? Am I connected? Of course I am, but to what? Is it to you or to…

– On my relation to my relations. As object, I remains distinct from those other objects around me. But I am not entirely distinct, as I am not simply an isolated atom, but am defined by the complex relations I build, maintain, and destroy. The family members I don’t speak to or foods I avoid are a part of me, just as my significant other or favourite songs are. There is no “at bottom” when describing myself, because I am more than myself, I am outside of myself.

– What then, if anything, am I? I am animal, of this I am fairly certain. I am mobile, desiring, creative flesh and bone. I have been told I am rational (of this I am always doubtful). I am a thing which thinks (though often doesn’t). I am real, this I accept. I am, but am not reducible to my relations. The same goes for my character. For I am also a history, and a trajectory.

– I am not my static presence, but a past and a future as well.

– My past is perhaps unknowable, as my past selves are themselves defined not in terms of isolated character traits or unchanging substance, but by their relations, both to other things, as well as to the relations of those things, and those things, and and and.

– I am a history in matter, a formation in the rock. I am a tender history in rust. I am an outgrowth in reality; a smudge on the windshield. I am a violent outburst of sight and sound. I am tired.

– How is history even possible?

– It gets crowded in here with all these memories (lies). For the amount that I write and think about memory, about haunting and the residue of relations, you’d think I had more of them. All my writing about memory is really about forgetting. (This is perhaps the thinker at his most candid, take note.) I forget everything. The vast majority of life forgotten: days, months, years, feelings, thoughts, homes. I would not survive without pockets of lists. My archive is continually destroyed by the washing machine. What would Freud say? (Don’t even get me started.)

– I am a force, a drive, a movement. I surge forward, in search of food, drink, this, that. I am empty, please fill me. Please, fill me.

– I am always to come, that is to say, I am not yet ready, but always in preparation. I am not yet, and yet…


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The Last Man On Earth (1964)

I’m excited about this one, and since it too is in the public domain, I thought I would share it. I will likely be watching this tonight:

There have been three films based on the book I Am Legend (1954), this one starring Vincent Price being the first, followed by The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith (which is the only one I have seen up until now). What I find interesting about this series is that through combining the mythos of the vampire and the zombie, this may be the first instance in popular culture where vampirism and/or zombification is a disease or virus, rather than being seen as magical or other-wordly in some way. This is actually one of the important themes for my book, the relation between magic and biology in Vitalism, but also in how we view the death drive. I am also interested in the relation between Vitalism and the idea of “mutations,” and how these connect to post-humanism and/or anti-humanism.

Also significant for my current writing is the idea of the apocalypse, in the case of the I Am Legend book and film off-shoots as well as many zombie films inspired by it, the idea of a biological apocalypse and the relation it has to the common Christian apocalypse.

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White Zombie (the first zombie movie)

I will be watching this film this evening. Please join me and we can discuss it (maybe!). The copyright has expired on it, so I am posting it below. Here’s the Wikipedia page for the movie. Note: It stars Bela Lugosi as a voodoo master named Murder(!) and so can’t possibly be bad! Enjoy!

PS: Click through to watch it on YouTube with a dimmer.


Wow talk about “undead labour,” huh? Creating the undead to work in a sugar mill? You’d think a voodoo master named Murder would aim higher than that. Maybe it was all part of a plan? As we all learned from The Simpsons, “First you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women.”

I did love that scene when Madeleine sees Murder’s gaze in the glass of wine and says “I see death.” Nice.

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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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