About Ben Woodard

I read books

Badiou on Speculative Realism

Badiou was kind enough to have 30min one-on-one sessions with students who requested them. I decided to conduct a short interview of sorts following from his celebratory comments regarding Speculative Realism and some of the themes presented in the course thus far which has centered on the theme of negation.

Q: In class the other day you positively mentioned what you called the new Speculative Philosophy. How do you see your work in relation to the work of the Speculative Realists (Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant and Graham Harman). Meillassoux sees himself as a materialist and not a realist, is this distinction pivotal for the future of metaphysics and affirmation as you see it?

A: The work of Speculative Realists, from the beginning is very interesting for me, and they refer to me sometimes too. The rupture with the idealist tradition in the field of philosophic study is of great necessity today. We return to the question of realism and materialism later. Its a very complex question.  The Speculative Realist position is the position where the point of departure of philosophy is not the relationship between the subject and object or the subject and the world and so on or what Quentin Meillassoux names correlationism. I have known Quentin Meillassoux for a long time I was in his doctoral dissertation and so on and from the very beginning Ive thought this description of correlationism and the critique of correlationism is a very important point. Its not the classical distinction between realism and materialism like in the Marxist tradition like with Althusser and so on. It was something else. It is very interesting to see that the point of departure of Meillassoux is finally the relationship between Hume and Kant. The idea of Quentin Meillassoux is practically that all philosophical tradition is in the space of Kant, the sense that correlationism is the only clear answer to the question of Hume. The idea of Quentin Meillassoux is that there is another possibility. We are not committed to the choice between Kant and Hume.

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Several interesting updates as of late:

Both Graham and Levi have interviews up on Another Heidegger Blog.

Reza has linked together several posts here paying particular attention to narrative-philosophical connections – especially those concerning video games and the possibility of  metaphysics videogame.

As has already been noted Collapse IV is available for download.

Late 2009/2010 promises to be a good one for Speculative Realism and its formless spawn as a slew of books are due to emerge…

Speculative Realism 2.0

Below are my notes from the speculative realist conference in Bristol.  This is not a transcript but what I could manage while still trying to pay attention and enjoy the talks.  The titles are invented and were not given.  My notes on Toscano’s talk are pretty sketchy so if any one wants to submit some I will gladly put them up.

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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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The Catapulted Brain

Catherine Malabou’s What Should We Do With Our Brain? appears a bit alien due to its friendly treatment of neurosciences – yet this is an oddness that is becoming more and more common. Philosophically, Malabou’s book presents itself as somewhat of an enigma – particularly in regards to its alliances – shifting from Deleuze to Hegel to pseudo-Marxist harpings on the the changing face of capital.

Many of Malabou’s general arguments are welcome such as when she deplores the comparison of the brain to a machine something which Badiou, for instance, is guilty of in his attempt to save the concept or manifest image of man. Also, Malabou’s question of how do we separate the spirit of capitalism from our brain is another interesting one thereby taking a purely ideological discussion to one of the very structure of thought as thought biologically or thought as unthought or as natural. The question of nature, while not directly addressed by Malabou, arises when the brain is thought as both an original imprint and as the point of departure for various trajectories that is, as both the product and the producer – the dominant coupling in Ian Hamilton Grant’s Philosophies of Nature After Schelling.

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CFP: Affirmation, Negation and the Politics of Late-Capitalism

The apocalyptic tenor surrounding recent financial crises has both explicitly and implicitly drudged up the undying leftist dream of a post-capitalist society. While Zizek has rightly noted that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, both his politics of refusal as well as Badiou’s politics of affirmation and varying configurations of post-modernist politics of the Other have left something to be desired in terms of anti-capitalist debate. Furthermore, the anti-humanist philosophical project of speculative realism, while noetically incisive, has had oddly little to say about anti-capitalist struggle–or any political struggle for that matter.

Papers are sought which investigate the varying degrees to which the thinking against or without the human (humanism/agency, etc.) is a viable political project in the age of Late Capitalism. How can a hyper-negative or darkly vitalist politics work within a capitalist frame without merely sinking into the common apathy of broadly marketable attitudes? Can capitalist life be truly haunted in a way which is politically generative? Can the speculative realist grasp of the object illuminate the machinations of capital?

Topics could include:

Agency and Capitalism

Hauntology and Capitalism

Xenoeconomics as a Politics

Nihilism and Capital

Crisis and the Structure of Capitalism

Speculative Realist Politics and Capitalism

Abstracts of 250-300 words should be submitted by November 30th.
Final papers of 2000-3000 words should be submitted by January 1st.
Discussion (virtual or actual) will commence on January 31st.

Please send correspondence to speculativeheresy [at] gmail [dot] com

Cross Post at will.

Call for Debate/Call for Papers – Speculative Realist Politics and Xenoeconomics

Given the posts at Splintering Bone Ashes (1, 2, 3) K-Punk’s responses (1. 2) as well as No Useless Leniency’s Comments (1, 2), Planomenology’s Comments (1) and connections here and here – It seems sensible to dedicate a space to these debates which center on capital, nihilism, utopia, hauntology and the neologisms of xenoeconomics and accelerationism.

To throw in my own two cents: it would seem that, on the most fundamental level, that the issue is the relation of structure and novelty – of Badiou’s early push of destruction and his later championing of subtraction – of nihil as clearing the field or as radical refusal or as…?

The plasticity of capitalist structures, humanism and the status of remainders and exceptions (haunts, agency) have also been called into question – the doom saying surrounding the Hadron Collider luckily slid right into the economic chaos.  This is also a prime avenue for discussing Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia – in particular petropolitics and sun economies – capitalism as a “planetary inevitability” and that it is an entity existing prior to the human merely waiting for a host (p. 27).

As a point of comparison – my own clumsy forays into a possible Speculative Realist politics are here and here but they centered on ecological issues and only briefly touched on the economic.

[Update #1:]

Planomenology – Notes for the Debate: Alien vs. Specter

Eliminative Culinarism – Hauntology, or a Shady Vitalism

K-Punk – Spectres of Accelerationism

Schoolboy Errors – Theory and Accelerationism/Xenoeconomics

Poetix – Capital Rules Everything Around Me

Poetix – Unlived Life

Schoolboy Errors – Theory and Accelerationism/Xenoeconomics II

No Useless Leniency – Capital and Agency (Encore)

Splintering Bone Ashes – Some Aims Regarding Speculative Realism and Politics

Splintering Bone Ashes – We are the Dead: Disconnected Thoughts on Spectrospheric Agency

[Update #2:]

While it is impossible to know the shelf life of any particular brand of academic excitement – I think that there is too much in the ongoing debates to let slide.  I think a virtual CFP for a virtual (or material?) conference might be warranted.  The broad theme would be Capitalism without Humans asking for works engaging:

Agency and Capitalism

Hauntology and Capitalism

Xenoeconomics as a Politics

Nihilism and Capital

Crisis and the Structure of Capitalism

Speculative Realist Politics

Papers would be sought which investigate the varying degrees to which the thinking against or without the human (humanism/agency etc) is a viable political project in the age of Late Capitalism.  How can a hyper-negative or darkly vitalist politics work within a capitalist frame without merely sinking into the common apathy of broadly marketable attitudes?  Can capitalist life be truly haunted in a way which is politically generative?

Suggestions of a timetable would be appreciated.

Non-Psychoanalysis pt. 2 – Desire and Law

Laruelle defines desire as that which:

“Designates, for non-psychoanalysis, the side of reality of jouissance, itself determined by the Real or Enjoying-without-enjoyment [Joui-sans-jouissance]. Deprived of its philosophical essence of desire of self or desire of the desire of the Other, it loses its determining role which philosophy, through Plato, and psychoanalysis, through Lacan, granted it.”

Laruelle immediately steps into the ponds of one of the great nemeses of non-philosophy and Speculative Realism – Emmanuel Levinas. That is, by closing the schism of desire and the objects of desire (whether they are other, subject et cetera) seems to come close to Levinas’ element as expressed in Totality and Infinity – to his ridiculous claim that objects themselves are simply free for us to desire as he argues in Existence and Existents.

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Non-Psychoanalysis pt. 1 – Drive and the Unconscious

The notion of Drive is one of the more heavily abused concepts of psychoanalysis while simultaneously one of it’s most extracted (save mirror stage induced alienation). Laruelle adopts Drive in relation to his vaunted force-of-thought and states that it is the “Other name for the force (of) thought as organon of the One and for its action of a pragmatic nature on the World or philosophy-material.” This needs to be dissected. For Laruelle, the force-of-thought is the instance of thought prior to the mediation of philosophy – it is the instance of thought prior to its fetishization via various noetic paradigms. The One, or vision-in-one, or the Real, is the given without givenness as such, which is experienced as a pure immanence. This Real cannot be thought of but along with or according to and hence Drive is taken by Laruelle as the force of this One in the World.

Laruelle diverges from Lacan when he states: “This drive is deprived of negativity or representativity and ignores the play of forces as well as the functions which engage in transcendence or in the logico-real order.” Here we see the implicit articulation of drive in Brassier’s Nihil Unbound, that is, the Drive functioning according to the axis of iteration and not the axis of alteration.

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Meillassoux’s Heresy? or The Chaos-God

[The following is a collection of excerpts from a paper I am working on about Meillassoux, Quantum Physics and the return of the anthropic in systems categorically opposed to the high status of the human.]

The theoretical passage, or perhaps more accurately the gaping chasm, between Quentin Meillassoux’s rigorously critical After Finitude to his divinological contribution to Collapse IV “Spectral Dilemma,” signals not only potentially strange consequences for the Speculative Realist project on the whole but also what several commentators have already noticed; that there is at best a political/ethical caesura and at worse an apolitical/unethical core in Speculative Realism.

In After Finitude, Meillassoux sets out to challenge the widespread but implicit correlationist enjoinder – that humans and the world they inhabit are codependent, and that the world only exists to be accessed by humans (AF, p. 5).  The argument here is essentially a complexification of ‘if a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound?’ (AF, p. 18-19). For Meillassoux and other Speculative Realists, the answer to this question is a resounding yes in the face of half a century of denials tantamount to theoretical heresy in that he claims that the absolute can be thought (AF, p. 30). Meillassoux goes on to de-comfort the physical world and ends with the assertion that the base line of existence is a storm of hyper-Chaos in which everything goes out the window except the law of non-contradiction.

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