Notes on Negarestani’s Abducting the Outside

These are all the notes I could manage to take while still paying sufficent attention. It should go without saying that weirdnesses or cracks that appear are no doubt due to my memory, hand writing, or stupidity and not to Reza!

Edit: Reza has posted his notes for the first half here.

Reza set up the talk as addressing “Genuine inhumanism” as an encounter with modern thought thereby entailing a dis-enthralled system of knowledge. He set out to do this through a series of thought pieces. These pieces began with an outline of the ambitions of post-Copernican thought to then be followed by a tripartite critique or assault against three conceptualizations of assault (and to propose a more epistemological model of acceleration as a counter). At the same time Reza noted the upswing of the various forms of acceleration he was critiquing.

In proper asymptotic fashion, Reza argued that the charge of Nick Land’s conceptualization was that the ends of reason do not lead to more reason, but simply unfold the unreasonable. Secondly, while Reza seemed to acknowledge the critical/epistemological knife of Brandom and Brassier, he set out their project as ‘axiomatic deaccelerationists’ Thirdly, Reza asked how acceleration could be understood as epistemological mediation which engenders, and is engendered by, germs of modern knowledge. Lastly, Reza proposed a diagrammatic example of modern acceleration as a form of epistemological navigation following the lead of Oresme.

Following this general map Reza began to discuss the ramifications of Modern Systems of Knowledge as he saw them. Structural, knowledge is oblique as it always works from the local to the global and functions in an asymptotic manner (ie the transcendental local can only function asymptotically). Because of this topological constraint [as opposed to something like correlationism?] knowledge can only access objects via the concept of space and therefore one must understand the topoi of thought. In the service of such topological thinking the computational relation between information and knowledge (in the form of computational or iterative myth) must be debunked). This in turn is forced by the 11th commandment – as long as there is a possible path, it is mandatory to take it. Modern knowledge is a thrall to space.

This enthrallment worms its way into the question ‘what is the concept?’ The question becomes how is the concept an information space that can be integrated into the apparently non-informational [the physical, structural, etc?] Here Reza entered into a discussion of Longo’s gestural thinking. [As I am just getting into Longo I cant really do this justice] Gestural thinking works in detecting symmetries as concepts are produced by normativity as geometrical gestures. Because of the importance of the topological for the conceptual, mathematics become the science of the concept since math transfers the invariances as the gesture that has maximal gestural stability.

[To go into the math of the gesture Reza produced two diagrams connecting the relation of information and form, leaping from Aristotelian formulations, in order to illustrate how the question of 'what is the concept?' is overridden by the question 'where is the concept?' leading to a deep ecology of the concept.]

The space of the concept can be thought of in terms of the shell that the snail carries on its own back ie concepts are no longer discrete but are mobile (concepts are the topos of the concept). How does one then locate the concept if it is constantly shifting like a metamorphic protean god? Computational dynamics sees this as the problem as repeated localization whereas it is actually ramifications of the locality of the concept that pushes it into the open.

Here Reza mentioned the Bourne Identity as linking together the where I am with the who I’m I [brings up a tactical vision of the snail] Each question is a new plot line moving through ramified concepts. This engenders a anti-Heideggerian move, roots are always mobile. Following such a model of navigation the transcendental procedure is taken to the extreme as asymptotic due to the structure of the object and the structure becomes restructured asymptotically through the operations of the concept.

Reza then reiterated the agenda of his tripartite critique in which all the targets are guilty of deep access whether machinic (Land), normative (Brassier), political (Marxism).

Land’s accelerationism functions programatically and not epistemologically working towards the Machinic Singularity via the computational regime. Computational dynamics hinge on algorithmic processes whose iterative nature explains its efficacy. Iteration only functions in finite time and hence the speed of acceleration. Against this Reza discussed Poincare’s critique of the contingency of the iterative loop apparent in high frequency trade and the failure of battlespace virtualization. The iterative medium cannot handle contingency but only the pseudo-randomness of Laplace and Hilbert. This pseudo-randomness is bound to Frege’s absolute logocentric formalism and the confines of Hilbert space. Hilbert believed that the world could be broken down into data-cubes. For Hilbert small perturbations were unimportant and interations lead to an increase in precision and therefore the consequences of iteration are meta-predictable. Such thinking should be combated as participating in the metaphysics of necessity. One should utilize infinite contingency against predictability. Turing and Hilbert see the algorithmic process as deterritorializing the entire planet. Small perturbations are infinite and finite and have real consequences down the line.

One should strive for coherency over consistency (which is too normative in the end). The physical world is one of geodesic principles and the straightforward use of information is lost as one must take into account entanglement. Furthermore, the machine algorithm has no place for ignorance. Laws are not a priori given in physical space – they are the result of the observer working within geodesic space. The rational unfolds the unreasonable. Algorithmic thought on the other hand can only answer ‘yes or no’ as its ‘ignorance’ is already axiomatically decided. Algorithmic thinking thereby collapse falsifiability and ignorance. The machinic becomes purely strategic and ideological.

Reza then turned to Brassier and Brandom. The normative turn of certain Sellarsians suffers from an inference problem since norms are by definition recursive and therefore always yield the same result. In this sense normativity is a mode of iteration. Against normativity acceleration should be followed as the catastrophic rearrangement of the limits of the system. Peirce pushes normative though a synthesis of thinking and doing and not a metaphysical enactivism but a form of gesture as a form of action (in the same way as Bertholz). These gestures stem from viewing reason (via Chatelet) as a ration of thought to nature. Reason is the broadening of the scope of oscillation between nature and culture in a rational to and fro-ing. Broader forms of reasoning are required. Abductive reasoning or manipulative epistemology are good mental labs for developing extreme hypotheses. We should embrace violent noetic propulsions which are mutilating as non-neutral observers are imported into fuzzy zones.

Observers are forced to work in a disequilibrial dynamics or twisted contingency but a rational disequilibrium introducing new forms into space. Acceleration responds to the global scope of knowledge – concepts need to be released out into the open (the catastrophes and disasters of Rene Thom) demanding the subject to improvise into contingency. Acceleration functions as the epistemic navigation of the concept space introducing dialectical instability.

Chatelet’s dialectics are a form of alien communication, they are a form of imperfect cutting or dialectical severance as an insider is left in what is cut off leading to a new ratio or intermix of thought and nature. The accelerationist gesture creates cognitive attractors which attracts ignorance as mitigation. Acceleration functions as a means of thinking catastrophes in order to establish a new accessibility. Truth is co-constituitve with error, truth is non-conceptual whereas for Brassier action produces pragmatics with a prestablished relation to nature. An alternative model is that of the long forgotten practice of metis or cunning reason against the regime of simulation as seen in the work of Benedict Singleton. Another promising avenue is the anarchic constructivism of Gabriel Catren in which the thinker or navigator is the gluing together of the rebel and the foundationalist. We should pursue metisocratic reason towards the unreasonable and engage in an ethics of humiliation.

Translation of Laruelle’s “Badiou and Non-Philosophy: a Parallel”

Translator’s Note: In order to avoid any sort of confusion, it should be noted that this article was included in an anthology of essays engaging various aspects of non-philosophy in contemporary philosophers. This article immediately follows Laruelle’s own essay responding to Deleuze, but was–for reasons that will become clear after reading–published under the pseudonym Tristan Aguilar.

Badiou and Non-Philosophy: A Parallel

Aguilar, Tristan. “Badiou et non-philosophie: un parallel” in Non-philosophie des contemporains. Ed. Le Collectif non-philosophique. Paris: Kimé, 1995.

            I. Everything seems to force the opposition between non-philosophy and the philosophy that takes the equation mathematics=ontology as its ontological base. This opposition can be identified on four levels:

            1. The central and guiding theme: on the one hand, a philosophy of the radical Multiple (Badiou=B.); on the other hand, a non-philosophy of the radical One (Laruelle=L.). One cannot, at least at first glance, imagine thoughts more extreme or more opposed in their common research of radicality in the name of anti-contemporary radicality (the philosophies of difference: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Deleuze, Derrida).

            2. The object of thought: on the one hand (B.) Being, a more-than-fundamental ontology, a veritable ontological base for philosophy, an overhaul of the concept of “being” as first: on the other (L.) a secondarization of being as an instance of a completely relative autonomy on behalf of the One as radical immanence or instance of the absolutely non-objective real; a global and resolute refusal to understand the real as Being and consequently a refusal to understand the essence of thought, if not thought itself, as ontology, be it “Presence” or not.

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Speculative Anxiety

In the closing pages of The Mathematics of Novelty Sam Gillespie turns to the subject of anxiety to relate Lacan to Badiou. Anxiety for Lacan, as Gillespie points out, centers on the lack of lack – the empty ground of being (p. 118). In terms of other philosophers’ concept of anxiety it is the “confrontation with possibility” – moral obligation for Kierkegaard and freedom in the world (Heidegger) (p. 119). Via Gillespie’s association of ontological anxiety with the objet a (for Lacan) and with the Event (Badiou) however, there is a certain formal (whether mathematizable or not) shell denying ontological anxiety from connecting to everyday objects.

While, on the one hand, I support a rather old fashioned distinction between the ontic and the ontological and cringe at a quotidianization of the ontological – it would seem that the formalization of the object denies the metaphysical everyday (as opposed to the muted metaphysical as the everyday). Or, in other words, the question becomes what is the depth or ontological reach of so called ordinary objects.

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Harman on Assemblages and DeLanda

Peter over at ANTHEM has posted up a recording of a recent lecture given by Graham Harman on DeLanda, Deleuze, Latour and their various notions of assemblages, as well as their ontological commitments. Definitely recommended as a prelude to Graham’s forthcoming book on Latour!

[UPDATE: ANTHEM has posted a new, uncorrupted file of the recording here.]


Laruelle’s “Reflections on the Meaning of Finitude in the Critique of Pure Reason”

Laruelle, Francois. “Reflections sur la sens de la finitude dans la Critique de la Raison Pure.” Revue International de Philosophie 35 (1981): 269-83.

Reflections on the Meaning of Finitude in the Critique of Pure Reason

François Laruelle

“Finitude” designates human knowledge’s positive nature of not creating its object which it nevertheless determines as object, of having to receive it so as to determine it. The Critique of Pure Reason modifies the theological problematic of finitude which, in the classical age, instead designates man’s being created, transposing it into the problematic of the intuitive relation of repraesentatio to the object and in fact the powerlessness of man to create the latter. We must make three preliminary yet essential distinctions. Finitude primarily and essentially is said of (human) intuition and secondarily, not essentially, of the imagination, the understanding and reason which are simultaneously finite and infinite. Furthermore, we must distinguish the finitude of intuition and its infinite (synthetic) condition in intuition: finally, we must distinguish these limited places [1] of finitude in accordance with certain parts of the Critique, simultaneously in accordance with the faculties and relations of one space of “form” to another—in accordance with finitude as the general principle of interpretation which is then globally opposed to an interpretation which would take for its guiding-thread the rise of Reflection throughout the Critique towards the highest instance of rational determination, the infinite and ideal. The first supposes that Reason can be liberated from the bondage of its initial finitude in “sensible” intuition, the second supposes this liberation without, however, its bonds with receptivity being fully broken.

We often oppose the Heideggerian and idealist (Hegelian or neo-Kantian) interpretations of these problems. On one side, finitude as irreducible and unsurpassable becomes the principle interpretation of Reason itself as pure finite Reason. On the other, finitude is simply an initial, limited and surpassed moment, either of the pure Idea, or of the transcendental reflection of infinite Reason. And it is true from the one to the other, from the directing primacy of Intuition to that of Reason and its ends, from the primacy of reception to that of phenomenal, then intelligible determination, from the primacy of sensibility to that of the intelligible (the universal moral Law in the solution to the third antinomy), there is seemingly a reciprocal reversal of perspectives which are rendered irreconcilable, thus changing their particular sense (that of sensibility to the understanding) and their critical value (their relation to the Whole or to the architectonic of the Critique). The adversaries themselves are bound to be carried away in these somewhat excessive debates and in oppositions which are all too often unilateral. Finitude becomes a problem, acquiring sense and value, when the preliminary or prefatory position of the texts which indicate and program it are recognized. Like any threshold, finitude can also be crossed “unproblematically” since it leads to the tabernacle of the moral Law, which detains its visitors in its folds indefinitely. Hence the two necessary interpretations mentioned above. This essay endeavors to rediscover their co-belonging and to stop opposing what the threshold itself never opposes: the simple indication or transition, and the program.

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Some Brief Notes on Naturephilosophy

It’s truly a shame that Iain Hamilton Grant’s book Philosophies of Nature after Schelling is only available at the moment in a ridiculously priced hardcover (although a relatively better priced paperback is due out this fall). Undoubtedly the price of his main work has hindered his reception and made him the least known and commented on of the speculative realists, but if the first chapter of his book is any indication, that will definitely change once his work becomes more readily available. (As an aside, that’s part of the aim of this very blog – to overcome some of the hindrances involved in spreading this research, in order to help it become a significant voice in contemporary philosophy.)

The initial chapter of Philosophies of Nature after Schelling spans topics ranging from a direct attack on the Kantian critical turn, a subtle critique of Badiou’s distinction between number and animal, some promissory comments on the epistemological turn inaugurated by Kant, a full-fledged discussion of vitalism (something too often taken as an undefined insult), and an argument for the significance of Schelling to contemporary philosophy. A handful to cover in 20 pages to be sure, but Grant is adept in bringing it all together.

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Ten Definitions from Laruelle’s Dictionnaire de la Non-Philosophie

Transcendental Axiomatic

The nature and procedure of the formation of the primary terms of non-philosophy, of its non-conceptual symbols, starting from philosophical concepts concerned with philosophical intuitiveness and naïveté.

Axiomatics is initially a scientific object. It is the organization of a theory or a fragment of a theory in order to empty the terms of their empirical or regional contents and to explicitly reveal the logical apparatus which connects them and becomes through this their only contents. There is a philosophical reflection on the axiomatic (Aristotle), but there are few examples of axiomatization in philosophy itself, if not perhaps in Descartes’ Responses, Spinoza’s Ethics and Fichte’s Science of Knowledge. In all these cases it is a matter of an ontological axiomatization, still largely intuitive. In the sciences, more or less complete attempts at axiomatization were made in particular by Hilbert in geometry, by Jean-Louis Destouches in quantum physics—i.e. above all in fields where unexpected innovations (non-Euclidean geometries, Heisenberg’s ‘uncertainty’ principle) required theoretical reorganization to legitimate their rigor. The epistemology of Mario Bunge draws conclusions from the postulate that it is in theory possible to axiomatize any scientific discipline. But axiomatization is an effort of reorganization which comes with the aftermath—even after a crisis—in the goal of examining the validity of a theory and the formalization of its relations to other theories which, in any event, has known limits (Godel). It is more a theoretical instrument than a theoretical project of the foundation of science.

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