Author Archives: MiCHaeL J∆MeS

balckwhiteIt has been many years since I last considered pursuing philosophy as a profession. I like my relative stability intensely  acquaintances with the funk of life sans the vertigo of managing massively inflated abstractions. I’m also not smart enough. Many of you philobros and sisters are hella slick with the intellect, and I believe overall better suited to such things – and please, people, do continue! I enjoy reading your fantasies and watching your public therapy sessions immensely. And I promise to keep scavenging and squandering all the beautific discourses if you keep generating them. That’s the least I can do.

I wonder, though, in considering the kind of ecosystems (material, media, semiotic) we exist with-in if we in the Western enclaves are all just varieties of lunatics put randomly in-charge of the asylum that is hyper-modern capitalism? Academics, the avant garde, bloggers, oil-riggers, feminists, junkies and used cars salesmen – all of us. Perhaps, “philosophy” in its many iterations and permutations is just a certain kind of lunacy taken up a notch, and weaponized for use on the low-intensity battlefields of institutionalized speculation? Or, to paraphrase the anonymous commenter I quote at length below, aren’t professional philosophers just lunatics like the rest of us, rocking back and forth repeating their “notes” and inquiries, as self-affirmations and mantras, hoping to set up psychic defenses against the dark arts of the world? Coping-beings all?

This person:

There are people who ask about reality and go into the laboratory or go the route of high level mathematical abstractions, and there are those who work from the nihilistic constraints of Darwinian axioms and are happy to remain within more or less modest statements. The particular problem of the philosopher seems to be his fundamental autism. He doesn’t for a second even begin to understand the world. The world itself- or words like the Real or Being or what have you- are his problem because, holy shit, he hasn’t got a clue what it is or how to operate in it.

Philosophy doesn’t begin in wonder or in disappointment or in the discovery of systematic error per se, it begins in the traumatic horror that I don’t know how to live- I’m a sick man, a maladjusted animal, I mean, look at the others, the millions of others, who seems perfectly content to get on with their lives without ever once really getting stuck on the question of consciousness. The philosopher is sick, damaged, wounded. And not in a romantic swooning way…

This is a time when ISIS is as seductive as Socrates and we’re all trying our best to keep up beat in the face of our own irrelevance and probably annihilation. The end of a cycle? The next stage? I’m sure there is a clever way to talk about it. We’d be just as well calling it what it is: self-induced catastrophe. We’re like the suicide who has jumped from the bridge and changes his mind on the way down. Too late- better make the fall pass more pleasantly, better survive while we plummet and plunge. So we see a resurgence again of that idea of philosophy as a way of life, we see the continued appeals to mysticism Western and Eastern, we see the religious fundamentalisms and their soothing solutions. [source]

And here we are playing in the cyber-muck attempting, with variable effort, to augment “the happy madness of everyday deludedness and self-deception”. But for what ends?

Harold Bloom, an old gnostic fabulist – if there ever was one, once described our universe as a Cosmic Disaster Zone, that the moment of creation was a catastrophe from which we’ve never recovered. For Zizek this catastrophe is an ontological fable of our brokenness, all the up and down. We exist in a realm of pure antagonistic chaos, caught between the mesh of a Lacanian Borromean knot of the Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real;  and all our systems of finitude are but the apotropaic charms of the Human Security System (Land), our ideological and fictional safety net we’ve constructed around us, a flimsy film against the monstrous truth: a system that seeks to stave off and defend us from the incursion of the Abyss of the Real. To ‘traverse the fantasy’ is to become like Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost a navigator of the Abyss. Call it madness, call it Chaos and old Night, call it what you will: the bottom line is that the open wound and trauma of this catastrophe is what drives us onward, our creative and inventive power we so lamely term the human condition hides the inhuman core of our non-being. The spur to our creativity is this very death-drive, both our glory and our sorrow. (Hickman) [source]

I’ll call it Χάος (Khaos), with its dark flesh creeping out into an expansive hyperverse, creating pockets of cosmos with tiny strains life coping, and struggling, and fucking, and speculating their way through existence. And I’ll embrace it because it is me (the very material of ‘I am-ness’), and because there is zer0 that can escape the wild pre-conscious immanence of being.

Even our language and significations participate; which is why Kant was wrong – or at least right in a way he didn’t intend – and the endgame of our attempts to flee the correlationist circle will always result in a return to our experiences of and as the funkadelic flesh of things. Coping-with and rationalizing the world forces us into violent and productive confrontation with the constituent madness at the extimate core life. From this register, perhaps its healthier to stop hiding and just be the best lunatic we can, remaining paranoid and schizoid and nomadic in our confrontations with and as the Real?

I can imagine Slavoj Žižek having his Joker war-paint on when he wrote:

[A]t its most radical, the unnamable Unconscious is not external to Logos, it is not its obscure background, but, rather, the very act of Naming, the very founding gesture of Logos. The greatest contingency, the ultimate act of abyssal madness, is the very act of imposing a rational Necessity onto the pre-rational chaos of the Real. The true point of “madness” is thus not the pure excess of the Night of the World, but the madness of the passage to the Symbolic itself, of imposing a symbolic order onto the chaos of the Real… If madness is constitutive, then every system of meaning is minimally paranoiac, “mad.” [source]

This is the way of things; a creeping unknown that requires a khaotic embrace with new identifications.

This. The latent thetic power of everybody for coping and engaging with-in reality.

I agree with the utility of giving up the idea that philosophy is a privileged kind of reasoning with its own special concepts. Theory as praxis indeed requires mutation into active styles of thinking “through topics, amid multifarious contexts of unknowing”.

I try to practice my own “feral philosophy” in the wild world that attempts to actively practice thinking that oscillates between affirmative decision activation and rigorously skeptical modes of inquiry.

This was a nice reminder.

Becoming Integral

Kant, like many philosophers, is notoriously difficult to read. Some people blame his proclivity for pedantic exuberance. That’s not totally inaccurate, but for me, the specific cause of the difficulty in my reading of Kant is that he is so wrong, more specifically, so incapable and comprised. It reminds me that, in British English, Kant and “Can’t” are homophones.

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081001_CACM_dark_networks.largeBy Jennifer Xu and Hsinchun Chen

SCIENTISTS FROM A variety of disciplines, including physics, sociology, biology, and computing, all explore the topological properties of complex systems that can be characterized as large-scale networks, including scienti c collaborations, the Web, the Internet, electric power grids, and biological and social networks. Despite the differences in their components, functions, and size, they are surprisingly similar in topology, leading to the conjecture that many complex systems are governed by the ubiquitous “self-organizing” principle, or that the internal complexity of a system increases without being guided or managed by external sources.

Still missing from this line of research, however, is an analysis of the topology of “dark” networks hidden from view yet that could have devastating effects on our social order and economy. Terrorist organizations, drug-traf cking rings, arms-smuggling operations, gang enterprises, and many other covert networks are dark networks. Their structures are largely unknown to outsiders due to the difficulty of accessing and collecting reliable data. Do they share the same topological properties as other types of empirical networks? Do they follow the self-organizing principle? How do they achieve efficiency under constant surveillance and threat from the authorities? How robust are they against attack? Here, we explore the topological properties of several covert criminal- and terrorist-related networks, hoping to contribute to the general understanding of the structural properties of complex systems in hostile environments while providing authorities insight regarding disruptive strategies.

Topological analysis focusing on the statistical characteristics of net- work structure is a relatively new methodology for studying large-scale networks.1,11 Large complex networks can be categorized into three types: random, small-world, and scale-free.1 A number of statistics (see Table 1) have been developed to study their to- pology; three of which—average path length, average clustering coef cient, and degree distribution—are widely used to categorize networks.





Hickman’s prose and insights often match the quality of his astute micro-analyses. Enjoy:

“Nature no longer exists. We’re all artificial now. The engine of inhumanism is eating reality alive so that nothing human will as Land once said “get out alive”. We’re seeing the human vanish before our eyes, the last remnants of the humanist traditions are imploding, the worlds of metaphysical bric-a-brac are giving way to the triumph of sciences which are far stranger than philosophy which is actually quite conservative and conserving. I know I talk of Zizek, Badiou, Land, et. al… but in truth I’m a post-nihilist who has already crossed the post-human divide, the zone of no return where whatever we’re doing is part of some hyperstitional collective madness of constructing the future out of the ruins of a failed and failing world of humans into the inhuman worlds which seem to imploding toward us out of the future.

We have just created a system of brakes and absorptions to defend ourselves from that truth. But as usual the truth(s) will win out in the end. So the philosopher in our time must like Pound’s poet become the antennae not of history, but of the future: a future that is looking more and more like a realm without humans.” (S.C Hickman)

So much coping-with-in the wilderness..

Below Sam Harris outlines and then discusses with Richard Dawkins his argument against Hume’s erroneous (IMO) notion that we cannot derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ – what philosopher’s call the “naturalistic fallacy” or “Hume’s Guillotine”.

Hume discusses the problem in book III, part I, section I of his book, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739):

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.[1]

Hume asks, given knowledge of the way the universe is, in what sense can we say it ought to be different? Hume calls for caution against such inferences in the absence of any explanation of how the ought-statements follow from the is-statements.

This discussion was filmed at The Sheldonian Theatre, University of Oxford on April 12, 2011 and was titled, “Who Says Science has Nothing to Say About Morality?”

Cannibal Metaphysics
By Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

I once had the intention of writing a book that would have been something of a homage to Deleuze and Guattari from the point of view of my discipline; it would have been called Anti-Narcissus: Anthropology as Minor Science. The project was to characterize the conceptual tensions animating contemporary anthropology. From the moment I had the title, however, the problems began. I quickly realized that the project verged on complete contradiction, and the least misstep on my part could have resulted in a mess of not-so anti-narcissistic provocations about the excellence of the positions to be professed.

It was then that I decided to raise the book to the rank of those fictional works (or, rather, invisible works) that Borges was the best at commenting on and that are often far more interesting than the visible works themselves (as one can be convinced of from reading the accounts of them furnished by that great blind reader). Rather than write the book itself, I found it more opportune to write about it as if others had written it. Cannibal Metaphysics is therefore a beginner’s guide to another book, entitled Anti-Narcissus, that because it was endlessly imagined, ended up not existing – unless in the pages that follow.

The principal objective of Anti-Narcissus is, to mark the ‘ethnographic’ present in my fashion, to address the following question: what do anthropologists owe, conceptually, to the people they study? The implications of this question would doubtlessly seem clearer were the problem approached from the other end. Are the differences and mutations internal to anthropological theory principally due to the structures and conjunctures of the social formations, ideological debates, intellectual fields and academic contexts from which anthropologists themselves emerge? Is that really the only relevant hypothesis? Couldn’t one shift to a perspective showing that the source of the most interesting concepts, problems, entities and agents introduced into thought by anthropological theory is in the imaginative powers of the societies – or, better, peoples and collectives – that they propose to explain? Doesn’t the originality of anthropology instead reside there – in this always-equivocal but often fecund alliance between the conceptions and practices coming from the worlds of the so-called ‘subject’ and ‘object’ of anthropology?

The question of Anti-Narcissus is thus epistemological, meaning political. If we are all more or less agreed that anthropology, even if colonialism was one of its historical a prioris, is today in the process of completing its karmic cycle, then we should also accept that the time has come to radicalize the reconstitution of the discipline by finishing the job. Anthropology is ready to fully assume its new mission of being the theory/practice of the permanent decolonization of thought.