Post-nihil and the End of Resentment?

Interest in the post-nihilist tendency is definitely on the rise. But what can be said about thinking that attempts to deflate thinking, other than its contradiction is not performative but narratological?

“Nihilism” is the linguistic-aesthetic form our anxieties take after the humiliating experience of having our phantasies displaced by a world outside our ego. But this is just step one in a much richer experience of humility. Every step taken after nihilism is a movement towards something infinitely more substantial, yet significantly less dramatic. We return home to a dark wilderness within which we had always already carved our niches. So we need not resent this state of affairs. We can embrace the opportunities afforded us and celebrate our circumscribed and awkward freedoms by adapting and assembling, or fleeing and founding new communities. We can become different.
Nothing is more essential in a full and genuine apocalypticism than the coincidentia oppositorum which it realizes between an absolute No-saying and an absolute Yes-saying, one inseparable from the final advent of an absolute darkness and an absolute light. This is luminously clear in Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God, already the madman’s proclamation of the death of God (The Gay Science, par. 125) reveals that we are now straying as through an infinite nothing, night and more night is coming on all the while, a night of the world which is an apocalyptic night, and one which is the deepest ending in history. Here, the death of God is not only an ultimate historical event, it is the most ultimate event that has ever occurred, one wiping away our entire horizon. But even if this is the darkest of all nights, it is nevertheless the most glorious of all possible dawns, for it releases an absolute and final Yes-saying, a Yes-saying which is the very opposite of ressentiment, and a Yes-saying whose revelation is Nietzsche’s ultimate calling. Now and only now a history inaugurated by ressentiment is ending, an ending that is the ending of the actuality of every possible subject, and is that ending precisely because it is the death of God. Yet this is the very death releasing a final and ultimate nihilism, a nihilism which is the tomb of God, and a nihilism which is the very arena of the ecstatic affirmation of a uniquely modern or postmodern Eternal Recurrence.[source]
Humans are fundamentally coping-beings: by composition and disposition we seek to make sense and understand ourselves in the context a world teeming with multitudes of others, and overflowing with danger and opportunity – creatures required by circumstance to adapt. But what adaptations are possible for us this late in the ‘game’?

As Levi Bryant has stated:
It is our circumstances themselves, the material reality of our world, that has become nihilistic, not the thought of this or that thinker. Indeed, I suspect that many of us are terrified and anguished by this objective nihilistic darkness that approaches and that may very well have happened, as Timothy Morton suggests. Perhaps we are already dead and we just don’t yet know it.
Meanwhile, the majority of North Americans tend to reject such realizations and then bury their accompanying dread of finitude and animality through consumption and/or fantasy - with T.V or self-medication no less than simple commodities - in order to sooth the pain of their existential fears and resentments. To be sure, there are differences in the manner people respond but i believe the push and pull of consumption and distraction remain paramount.

I believe the task of conscious observers (and not just intellectuals) today is to begin to indulge rather than mask the nihilistic forces of contemporary life – forces that manifest and register existentially, environmentally, and poltically in a variety of objective ways. We must partake instead of continuing to deny the dark revelations of current crises in order to push each other towards more earthly, or creaturely, that is to say ecological modes of thinking and doing. Realizing and coping-with the transcorporeal facticity of life entails communicating and making explicit our intimate connections with the planet and its beings, but it also requires us to explore and engage the inherent precarity and ontological vulnerability with-in the natural world through association, design and infrastructure.

Post-nihilist praxis is thus an experimental mode of embodied enagement oriented towards operationalizing novel and actionable solutions, communications and adaptations to the myriad of creeping potencies of nonhuman flows and assemblages both within and without. If we are to rebuild from the ruins of this mad civilization the important work to be done is decidedly practical.


Parasitic Movements of the Deconstructive?

[from http://missanielablog.com/the-human-parasite]

If we seek to disassemble those monstrous bodies of brutal profiteering and extracting encompassment there is a necessity to work from the inside. We resisting tinkerers and wannabe re-evolutionaries must take from our immediate environs the materials and energies required to build up our powers and weapons, and then attack the organs of these dominant bodies, becoming an immanent dis-ease gathering and extending our effects in ways that disable the abusive capacities of our much larger host. We must allow our dis-ease to be an active resistance that devastates, opening degenerate spaces for novel possibilities to some day, some how emerge.
“The movements of deconstruction do not shake up structures from the outside. They are neither possible and effective, nor can they set their aim, except by inhabiting those structures. Inhabiting them in a certain way, because one always inhabits and all the more when one does not suspect it. Operating necessarily from the inside, borrowing all the strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure, borrowing them structurally, that is to say without being able to isolate their elements and atoms, the enterprise of deconstruction is always, in a certain way, swept away by its own work.” (Derrida, Of Grammatology, p.24).
Translation by Spivak, G.-C (2011) “Preface: Reading de la Grammatologie.” In: (ed.) Gaston, S, and Maclachlan, I. Reading Derrida’s Of Grammatology.. London and New York: Continuum.

"All I have done … is dominated by the thought of a virus, what could be called a parasitology, a virology, the virus being many things…. The virus is in part a parasite that destroys, that introduces disorder into communication. Even from the biological standpoint, this is what happens with a virus; it derails a mechanism of the communicational type, its coding and decoding. On the other hand, it is something that is neither living nor non-living; the virus is not a microbe. And if you follow these two threads, that of a parasite which disrupts destination from the communicative point of view—disrupting writing, inscription, and the coding and decoding of inscription—and which on the other hand is neither alive nor dead, you have the matrix of all that I have done since I began writing." - Derrida
From Brunette & Wills, ed., Deconstruction and the Visual Arts, (Cambridge University Press, 1994), 12.]


The Rhythm of Things?

From ‘Rhythm-Studies’(2013), by Laura Marcus:
The concepts of ‘rhythm’ as motion and as connectivity, two of the central topics of emerge in Herbert Spencer’s influential writings on ‘The Direction and Rhythm of Motion’, in his First Principles of a New System of Philosophy (1862). In Chapter X of the volume, ‘The Rhythm of Motion’, Spencer argued for the omnipresence of ‘rhythm’, building up from the physical world and its laws to the realms of social organisation and human creative activity. ‘Rhythmical action’ – initially defined through the terms of ‘vibration’ and ‘undulation’ - is to be found in the impact of a rising breeze on a becalmed vessel or, on land, in the ‘conflict between the current of air and the things it meets’: ‘The blades of grass and dried bents in the meadows, and still better the stalks in the neighbouring corn-fields, exhibit the same rising and falling movement’. For Spencer all motion is rhythmical, and the physical universe exists in a mode of perpetual motion which he defines in terms of ‘a conflict of forces not in equilibrium’: ‘If the antagonist forces at any point are balanced, there is rest; and in the absence of motion there can of course be no rhythm’.

Spencer found rhythm not only at the largest levels (in, for example, geographical processes) but in the bodily processes – ingestion, excretion, pulsation – of each individual organism, and in human consciousness, whose rhythm he defined in the terms of a departure and return from and to mental states and feelings. A more conspicuous rhythm, ‘having longer waves’, he argued, ‘is seen during the outflow of emotion into dancing, poetry, and music. The current of mental energy that shows itself in these modes of bodily action is not continuous but falls into a succession of pulses’. The rhythmic dimensions of aesthetic expression start from the body, and ‘the bodily discharge of feeling’, and their naturalness is proven by the fact that they are also revealed in the cadences – the rise and fall - of ordinary speech…

[Jacques] Rancière brings ‘rhythm’ into this energetic field in his quotation from the modernist writer and critic Blaise Cendrars: ‘Rhythm speaks. You are … Reality has no meaning any more. Everything is rhythm, speech life...Revolution. The dawn of the world today’. Rancière comments: ‘The new common term of measurement, thus contrasted with the old one, is rhythm, the vital element of each material unbound atom which causes the image to pass into the word, the word into the brush-stroke, the brush-stroke into the vibration of light or motion’. In this passage from image to word to brushstroke to photographic/cinematographic image (these technologically mediated forms being one way of interpreting ‘the vibration of light or motion’) we find a desire to (re)connect artistic or aesthetic forms which had been artificially divided into the arts of space and the arts of time, or into the verbal and the plastic arts.”


Pluralism as Realism?

Pluralism is not an alternative to realism. It is simply realism without its chest puffed out, showing off. Pluralism is realism that recognises the multiple paths that any trajectory can follow and the beautiful plumage that can grace any mode of existence.” – Phillip, Circling Squares
Recently a series of posts have appeared among the usual philosophy blogger suspects chatting up the differences between and possible commensurability of 'realism' and 'pluralism' viz. the ontographic enterprise. First Jeremy Trombley offered some thoughts on the value of the ‘ontological turn’ in Anthropology (see here and here), to which Levi Bryant responded (see here, here and here), followed up by a plethora of posts by James Stanescu, Phillip, Matthew Segall, Terence Blake, David Roden (here) and now Bill at Critical Fantasies (here). Arran and I try to present a post-nihilist position on the issues here and here. All involved are providing interesting perspective on the topic and the comment sections on each blog bristle with insight. If you are into philosophy/theory and ontographic musings check out the scene. I recommend checking out the comprehensive list of the related posts compiled by James HERE. I’m sure this 'debate', now playfully dubbed the 'Pluralism Wars' by Stanescu, will continue to evolve  so keep an eye out for developments and links at the host sites.

What follows are two brief points I want to make as a supplement to the debate rather than an intervention per se. The comments are brief and underdeveloped because I don't envision having much to offer simply because, as Arran James reminds us, critical pragmatics forecloses the possibility of saying "I am for or against pluralism". I think issues surrounding 'pluralism' are methodological issues not about the efficacy of ontological commitments. In many ways this debate is more about negotiating 'frameworks' or habits of thinking than it is about what ontography as a practice can do or might offer. And, as always, my interests have less to do with sifting and shifting particular theoretical stances than  in fashioning conceptual 'tools' for coping-with and engaging the Real viz. the tactical and pragmatic reorganization of actually existing ecologies of matter-energy (which for me includes expressive activities, knowledges and practices). I have a more developed take on the relationship between realism, pluralism and politics posted over at Synthetic Zero (here) so go check that out if you want temporary brain damage.

Now for the babbling gibberish:

1. The only realism worthy its claims is a type of pluralism:

It can be argued that the all too human production of Truth is only ever about adequation: the tentative sorting and symbolic coding of associative experience via recursive cognition. Truth is fashioned by human cognizers thru an embodied, social, and ultimately limited cognitive-linguistic coping process. We accomodate our experiences with the linguistic and cognitive resources at hand. Truths are the artifacts and instruments of our accomodations.

This, of course, brings us close to the traditional pragmatist notion of truth as that which 'works' for us in a given situation. And the truth of what works for us is, therefore, relative to the situations or forms of life we inhabit. That truths are relative to the realities and forms of life we enact, and thus locally devised, should come as no suprise to contemporary theorists. Most researchers have come to appreciate the diversity of perspectives which contribute to the creation of all truth-claims about the Real. Perspective is multiple because reality and its modes contain multitudes. However, what requires strong emphasis here, in relation to realism, is that in the general ecology of materials and expressions human ‘truths’ are always in the mix with other non-linguistic realities and never on outside looking in. The process of semiotic and communicative coping-with always takes place in complex situations of diverse and autonomous non-discursive forces and assemblages. And if we are in the mix with a myriad of independently existing stratified and interwoven realities, as realists would naturalistically concede, then as beings trying to find our way in the world we will be moved to account for this complexity in some manner.

In this truncated sense, then, 'pluralism' of some sort is unavoidable if we want to take up a naturalist ontographic project. Multiple perpectives and ontic multiplicity necessitate complex forms of knowing and relating. Pluralism is thus primarily a methodological issue for the realist: in fashioning realistic models or narratives or discourses we have to be rigorous in addressing the actuality of multitudes - the varieties of materials and perspectives in play. To be clear, the most adept truth-seekers and inquirers among us are, almost by default, both realists and pluralists. A lack of adequation in this regard leads only to impoverished modes of ontography.

2. The only pluralism worthy of its claims is a type of realism:

The traumatic presence of the Real – as the disclosed thru interactions with entities and intensities of all sorts – is not an issue of argumentative persuasion but of confrontation and adaptation within a wilderness of consequential force and material assembly. Reality is raw and thick enough not to be explained away. The Real is that which must be coped-with 'beyond' and ‘below’ the level of explanation itself. The raw operations of corporeal necessity waits for no ideology, no matter how slickly composed and logical ordered. And so if pluralism is an attempt to take into account divergences in perspective and experience, as well as to articulate the different modes of existence and levels of complexity in the world, then it is also an attempt to fashion an adequate relationship to a ever-present reality that affords perspective and multiplicity in the first place (or in the last instance). It is an attempt at a kind of realism. Why maintain a pluralistic attitude or adopt pluralist practices if reality does not demand it? The wild diversity of the Real compels us to meet complexity with complexity.
“[T]he importance of the pluralist project, philosophically (and realistically) speaking: to compel attention to the specific ways in which different things must be addressed in order to be properly articulated in their own terms.” – Phillip, Circling Squares
 Both pluralism and realism make claims about the matrix of reality within which each discourse and set of methods emerges. To this extent they are commensurate discursive possibilities. The real does not need defending. It requires negotiation.

Comments and criticism are encouraged.


small sayings

What a task it is trying to articulate
A world-in-view after the magic show
Of consciousness collapses.

When conscience meets sensation,
And phantasy flesh,
There is no-thing left to say
But that in saying is already too much.


Hardly A Problem At All?

I have been hoping to sit down and sketch out some ideas on what a 'theory of consciousness' might look like for a while now but never get around to doing so. The bottom-line, for me, is that "qualia" is the not-so-simply coordinated sensation of evolved functional life. If you bind together sensate bodies with particular organic capacities for recursion, retention (memory), association and projection (biological imagination) – all of which can be explained with reference to neurology and functional anatomy –you get animals with a sense of self. Sapience emerges when ongoing rudimentary perceptual categorization is linked via neural reentry to emotionally coded / value-dependent memories creating a so-called “remembered present”, or emergent (and strange?) loop of referential awareness. The systemic coordination of the relevant biological components results in a dynamic and reactional neuro-functional core (see Edelman and Tononi 2000) and informational basin of attraction capable of generating what is traditionally know as internal volition or “intentionality”. This ‘wired’ complex generates structured (limiting and affording) ‘feelings’: a recursive neurocognitive simulacra of affective intensity. Thus “qualia” is what it feels like to be a particular kind of organic body. We collect and project and speculate and cope in our attempts at surviving, copulating and generally party hard via the interplay between evolved/emergent biological capacities and eco-social relations. Not much left to explain once all the details are traced out and observed in situ in my opinion.

No big deal, right? The problem is many academic careers have been maintained in making much ado about not that much. So, unfortunately, many philosophers and humanity professors still haven’t read the memo on the explanatory powers of scientific research, nor have they been motivated to develop a reasoned response to how such findings completely obliterate the past musings of their heroes.

Much later I plan on mashing together and stretching out the details of a genuine pet theory on how sentience and sapience emerge but for now I just want to note that others are also trying to get past the pseudo-debate (in my opinion) about the so-called "hard problem of consciousness":
One of the many and varied modes of post-humanism hails an end to human exceptionalism and cognition-oriented models, and instead begins from one already integrated, dynamic and connected world. There is no ‘really hard problem’ about the relation between mind and world, for the mind is an effect of relations, not something that has to act in order to represent a world to which it must subsequently relate (Flanagan 2007). It is not the case that we begin life as observing, representing beings who then become through receptivity. Rather, in the beginning is a dynamic and world-oriented receptivity from which organized cognition, and the sense of the self as subject or man emerges. It is from a primary openness to the world, a primarily sensed world, that there emerges the sense of one who sees.” – Claire Colebrook [source]
The "primary openness" of all assembled bodies (see here, here and here) takes place within the field of possibility or context afforded by a myriad of actual evolved-dynamic systems: a wild, uncapture-able matrix/ecology of affective materials, intensive powers, differences and assembled networks. This 'general ecology' (wilderness of Being) is simultaneously where we come from AND where we are thrown into. Referencing the deep (and dark) context in which all experience emerges requires and AND-logic that renders this simultaneity negotiable and all talk about how 'mind' and 'world' relate a little less problematic.


New Skins

It has been one of those years. Doubt driven habits led to explosive sessions of turmoil and subsequent personal defeat. Trans-formations indeed. With the existential horizon now clearing I aim to make good on the fantasies my ego tells itself, and get back to sleepless nights of slam philosophy and aggravated commentaries. Blogging is fun. You, good and enduring reader, may be happy to learn that in exile I have learned a few tricks and, perhaps, cultivated a fair share more of intellectual humility. Don’t get me wrong: the bite and bark are present still - only now such skills and deviant posing rub perforated skins with a smoother sense-ability towards affective communitas. Henceforth all semantic tinkerings will be fully washed of theological glory and utterly weaponized. Mutation is everything; and with maximum regard. #confessions


Whatever you do, you need courage

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
It has been said that pain transforms - but I don't want to be transformed like that. Sometimes being brave is the only thing a person can do. #confessions



Any change in determining conditions is never a complete re-coordination of components, but rather a complex adjusting of variable elements according to intrinsic properties and extrinsic force. So it is with base materiality and so it is with any of our scaffolded sapient worldviews.

This blog has been a lot of things for me: an extension of my personality, a platform for sorting of interests, but more concretely it has always been a tool for inquiry and expression. Since 2009 i have explored a variety of obsessions: from speculative theory, fringe politics, evolutionary science and ecology to architecture, art, depth psychology and popular culture – with all sorts of confessions, carnival events and human encounters in between. However situations change. I have changed.

These past few months have been tumultuous with regard to my conceptual grasping of the world and its entities. Step backs and switch-backs and revisitations have led to intensive thetic mutations and shifting political sentiments. Living and ‘managing’ routines, needs and psyches in the context of rapid dissolution and continuing reorganization of the world-flesh by anarchic forces of production (hyper-abstraction) and pseudo and mega wish-fulfillment(as a multitude of egos amplified exponentially) has brought me to the brink. Nothing I think I know makes sense in light of what I am experiencing. Its time to cross the threshold.

I am no longer driven to pursue individualized intellectual processing. On my own I am a mere glitch. Nothing but a momentary capture of language and associations. But with others I become more: we become. As an assemblage our powers are increased and new capacities emerge. And it is only in the ‘we’ that the Eaarth and its woven sublime can be adequately disclosed. Knowledge tokens and bio-understandings are always (co)enacted and disclosed socially, as intact ecosystems. Only thru collaboration between elements and materials do new configurations occur. The Madness of one becomes tempered by the madness of the more-than-one so that whole worlds (as multiplicities and spaces with differential dimensions) can be devoured, transformed and rebirthed. 

So moving forward (and backward and sideways perhaps) I will be focusing most of my energies on a new joint project - involving Arran (from Attempts At Living) and lurking-linker extraordinaire Dirk (dmf) and guided by a shared concern with evolving more sophisticated speculative and praxis-oriented responses to the continued collapse of contemporary ecological, socioeconomic and ideological realities. Below is a basic outline:

about: Synthetic_Zero is a project designed to explore the challenges and opportunities of being & becoming human after nihilism. The collaborative approach pursued here is intended as an experimental response to the various crises, disjunctions and unequally distributed realities of contemporary life. At different moments this website will act as research tool, culture hacking platform, and crucible for critical discussion – with all sorts of confessions, carnival events and mutant encounters in-between. We seek to salvage and explore the various speculative and pragmatic opportunities afforded by established disciplines and traditions of inquiry (from philosophy, anthropology, neuroscience, psychiatry, social work, and ecology) while simultaneously assembling insights and sensibilities from across the spectrum of human expression and engagement (from art, literature, architecture, urban design, indigenous politics, and various social movements). Our intention is to cultivate more flexible and adaptive modes of relating and existing. There are many ways to live among ruins and here we will explore most of them.
Archive Fire will continue to function as a space for personal reflection and individual explorations in rhetoric, style and self-expression - while all new formal and para-academic content will be shared at synthetic zero and will command most of my attention.

Thank you to all the readers, participants and the many supporters of this blog over the last 4 years. I hope you enjoy the new direction/focus here and please check out what Arran, Dirk and I are up to over at syntheticzero.net. Until then…
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