About Ben Woodard

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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.

New series from Fordham University Press

A series of texts from Fordham University Press is coming out which deal primarily with biopolitics and community. Here is the release:

Commonalities, a Fordham University Series
Editor, Timothy Campbell

Is there any concern more pressing today than thinking what it means to have in common? From debates on biotechnology and shared gene pools, to the relation between the digital commons and public culture, to political and theological genealogies of the common and community, to the fraying European Community, one of the most decisive questions for contemporary life concerns what having and being in common entails.

Why? When did the common become a question and not a declaration? The reasons are many. Certainly, the Fall of the Berlin Wall discredited the account Communism had provided of the common. A number of works written in the wake of Communism’s collapse also helped open the common to philosophical investigation: works from Giorgio Agamben, Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Roberto Esposito, among others. One effect of their readings was to have made clearer the profound influence a certain language of sovereignty and the law enjoys over how we understand collective life.

Where does that leave the political thought of the common today? Some continue to tell themselves the heart-warming story in which a return to communal life might still be possible and desired. Others sense the end of community, which often becomes the prelude to a hand-wringing Messianism. And then there are others who glimpse in the present moment an opportunity for thought; who believe that we are on the
cusp of new modes of being-in-common. The name we will want to give these possibilities for imagining future common forms is “Commonalities.”

Where the common and community are concepts, “commonalities” captures the dynamism of the relations that make up both; the relation of the common not only to subjects and individuals but to other living entities as well as objects. Where perspectives on the common and community are largely indebted to what has been called “political theology,” the perspective provided by “commonalities” is political in the sense that it concerns itself primarily with emerging forms of being together and having together. Not surprisingly, in “commonalities” communication moves to the center but not the protected and ultimately unsatisfying communication that so dominates interactions today. Rather communication among “commonalities” resembles a contamination of approaches and perspectives that leads to new modes of being. Where before there was always and only the common and its privileged form, the community, now a horizon for thought becomes available that is capable of accounting for immanent (and possibly common) singularities. “Commonalities” names a research project in which the common becomes a mode of investigating and writing the political: a way of creating collectively that discloses the immanent singularities that characterize the contemporary moment.

The series Commonalities registers such a moment for thinking the political across the common. Featuring works that take up the question and the promise of the common ecumenically, Commonalities is not limited to any one philosophical tradition. Rather it spotlights the forms that the common assumes in a number of disciplines and traditions: in greater attention to the importance of relationality and interdependence; in bio-political research; and in ongoing critiques of all forms of the common thought merely as instances of political theology. In a word the series is addressed to those interested in imagining possible worlds held in common.

The titles that have already been accepted are:

Remo Bodei, La vita delle cose
Massimo Cacciari, Europe and Empire. Edited by Alessandro Carrera, Translated by Massimo Verdicchio
Roberto Esposito, Categorie Dell’Impolitico
Roberto Esposito, Terms of Politics: Community, Immunity, Biopolitics
Maurizio Ferraris, Documentalità: Perché è necessario lasciar trace
Maurizio Ferraris, Dove sei? Ontologia del telefonino
Jean-Luc Nancy, Identité: Fragments, franchises

Speculative September NYC

A series of SR and SR related events will be taking place mid September in NYC. Graham has posted about these here.

Here’s what I know of so far:

9/8/2011 – Graham Harman @ TPSNY – “New Paths from Husserl to Heidegger”

9/9/2011 – Graham Harman @ NYU – “What Causes Space”

9/14/2011 – Levi Bryant, Graham Harman, Timothy Morton, Steven Shaviro @ The New School – Titles Here

I believe Eileen Joy is also speaking on this date @ TPSNY on SR and Literature.

9/15/2011 – Jane Bennett, Levi Bryant, and Graham Harman.”@ CUNY Grad Center – “Speculative Realism: A Conversation with Jane Bennett, Levi Bryant, and Graham Harman.”

9/16/2011 – Various Speakers  @ CUNY Grad Center“Speculative Medievalisms 2”

9/17/2011 – Ben Woodard @ TPSNY – “Complicitous Continuums – The Horrors of the Cosmicist Earth”

I’ll be presenting on Cyclonopedia, Lovecraft, and some other geophilosophical weirdness.

Please comment if there are other events going on or if you have further details, links, etc.

Caputo on Meillassoux

What follows is an outline of Caputo’s lectures on the future of continental philosophy (both religious and not) that he is currently engaged in at Syracuse University with a few comments of my own. Mostly I want to outline some of the claims he makes and have a discussion about his views on Meillassoux, Brassier, and Laruelle. As of now only the lectures on Meillassoux are online but as Brassier and Laruelle will be coming up soon.

1rst Lecture

Caputo begins by asserting that Meillassoux proceeds like a Descartes sans god, setting forth mediations on correlationism instead  of the cogito. After outlining Leibniz and Descartes’ relation to the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Caputo addresses Kant and the nullification of the ontological proof of God since God, for both Leibniz and Descartes, guaranteed rationalism. Despite Kant’s demolition though Caputo notes that he set aside room for faith in order to allow for moral law, practical reason etc. This formal distinction yet saving of the noumenal forms the basis of weak correlationism.

Given the explosion of doubt we have the Hegelian retort that the noumenal/phenomenal distinction itself gives intuition into the noumenal and hence mind becomes substance, doubt becomes knowledge as Hegel absolutizes the correlation. Hegel’s post critical metaphysics gives the absolute necessity as spirit hence all things must be contingent but the totality must not be. Here Captuo suggests a disagreement between Zizek’s Hegel and Malabou’s. For Caputo, Hegel saves God as non-existent  but infinite womb of all being.

Caputo argues that Meillassoux ignores Kant’s claim that all metaphysics fail because they do not appreciate the limited applicability of the a priori categories.

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New Journal: Thinking Nature

Through the fine folks at open humanities I’ve set up a new journal called Thinking Nature. The journal is not meant to be a mouth piece for Grantian Speculative Realism or my own Dark Vitalism but is meant to explore the relationships between philosophy, science, and nature – nature as a concept, set of processes, and as a series of empircal and metaphysical entities.

My sense is that given the dominance of ‘green’ thinking, programs, and activities in the age of ecological crisis, nature could use a good amount of ideological cleansing and intellectual clarification.

I would ask if anyone is willing and able to design a header image for the journal website it would be much appreciated. The first CFP will be out soon.

Oken, District 9, and Lovecraft

The following is my contribution to the cross blog event as well an excerpt from the final chapter of the forthcoming Slime Dynamics.

The question becomes what of ethics – a concern which too often than not is the center of contemporary philosophy at the cost of analytical or speculative breadth and depth. An ethics which must take the productivity and product being of nature seriously.

In “Being and Slime” Grant points out that, following Oken, an ethics without a philosophy of nature is a contradiction, a non-thing (Collapse 4, 287-289). The fundamental challenge of Kantian ethics and of subsequent post-modern ethics (following from thinkers such as Emanuel Levinas) is that they set themselves as groundless, as not following from any sort of nature or material substance. This groundlessness is only half -hearted however, as the dominant form of ethics bases itself on an unacknowledged (or celebrated) positing of the importance of human beings.

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