Tag Archives: materialism

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Adam Robbert bringing the Foucault and Deleuze eco-style: 

For Foucault, then, the nonhuman impresses itself onto anthropic space through the production of laws and regulations, the production of material infrastructures that manipulate human behavior and perception, and the enforcement of practices that condition human beings. In Foucault’s understanding, the human is always born into a larger historical condition that is not of the same kind as any one person’s individual experience, an experience that is, to an indeterminate degree, an effect of historical trends rather a starting point for historical evaluation. 

Similarly, for Deleuze, nonhuman forces already act on the inside of human experience. Here all knowing is an inter-species effort; multiple species are always on the inside of anthropomorphic space, undermining it from within. The Kantian transcendental subject is for Deleuze a complex and multiple collective of diverging syntheses of cognition and perception. If Foucault initiates a move from the transcendental a priori to the historical a priori then Deleuze initiates a similar movement—from an historical a priori to an ecological a priori. Crucially, the enfolding of divergent species into human cognition marks not just an ecological basis for all human thought—a mark that suggests that all human thought is dependent on a multiplicity of nonhumans living and dying on the inside of human subjectivity—but more cosmically that human cognition is a higher dimensional enfolding of spacetime itself, a synthesis that makes the vastness of the cosmos thinkable to the human mind.

What I like about Adam’s framing of F & D here is his seemless demonstration of how each of these Frenchies are already thinking ecologically in their appeals to structure and materiality, without having explicitly stated as such. Reading Adam’s post (here) reminds me exactly why the work of these two gents is so near and dear to me: each attempts to think about the structural dynamics embodied in material relations of power, subjectivity and episteme in an ecological manner.

I cannot stress enough how important it seems to me to find ways of operationalizing the insight that nonhuman forces always already act on the “inside” of human experience, as the non-human-in-human – the dark flesh conditioning and positioning hominid experience. Experiencing bodies are complex multiplicities of synthesizing assemblage – higher dimensional enfoldings of space-time…

“[M]an and nature are not like two opposite terms confronting each other – not even in the sense of bipolar opposites within a relationship of causation, ideation, or expression (cause and effect, subject and object, etc); rather they are one and the same essential reality, the producer-product” (Anti-Oedipus, p. 4-5).


On Matters of Concern:
Ontological Politics, Ecology, and the Anthropo(s)cene

Adrian Ivakhiv 

Ontology is in; epistemology is out. The question is no longer how we know what we know, but what is: what are the fundamental constituents of the universe, what is their nature, how do they relate and differ, and so on. Ontology, furthermore, is political. Or so a certain glean of the intellectual and philosophical landscape might suggest. Ontology has become an issue (again) among philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, science and technology scholars, and others, in a way that it has not been for perhaps a century.

This paper arises from an entanglement of conversations in ecologically informed philosophy. Most specifically, it emerged from debates within the movement of “speculative realism” around the subspecies of that genre known as Object-Oriented Ontology (“OOO”) and its defense of an ontology of objects rather than processes. More broadly, the paper attends to conversations in the “ontopolitical” milieu of contemporary social, cultural, and environmental theory, a milieu in which posthumanism, critical animal studies, actor-network theory, assemblage theory, critical realism, agential realism, nonrepresentational theory, enactive and embodied cognitivism, post-phenomenology, multispecies ethnography, integral ecology, and various forms of “new materialism,” “geophilosophy,” and “cosmopolitics” fashion themselves as intellectual responses to the predicament indicated by such terms as the ecocrisis, the climate crisis, and the Anthropocene.

One of the lines of debate to which this paper responds is that between those who believe we have lost a sense for the objects that make up the world and those who believe that what we need is a more nuanced account of processes, both those encompassing human-nonhuman relations today and those encompassing all dimensions of the knowable universe. Object- oriented philosophers, like Graham Harman (2005, 2009, 2011), Levi Bryant (2011, 2014), Ian Bogost (2012), and Timothy Morton (2013), begin from the premise that the best description of the world is one that attends closely to the objects that make it up. This is their “realism” more broadly, and their “objectivism” more specifically. While this premise sounds, at first blush, not unlike phenomenologist Edmund Husserl’s call “back to the things themselves,” the difference is that Husserl approached those “things” through the human perception of them—to which Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and others added an emphasis on interpretation, language, discourse, embodiment, decision, and other contextual determinants of human experience. Object-oriented philosophers are more interested in decentering human perception and experience, so that it is no more valued in principle than any other kind of experience. In part, this is out of a desire to account for a world that, as Bryant (2010, par. 1) has put it, “far from reducing the number of existing objects as alleged by reductive materialisms, has actually experienced a promiscuous proliferation and multiplication of objects of all sorts.”

This desire to acknowledge the proliferation of objects is a valuable step for philosophers insofar as it returns us to a concern for the world, and not merely for humanity. Yet it is important to recognize that this proliferation results, in large part, from the tremendous proliferation of commodities in a capitalist world-economy—the most productive economy the world has seen, whose productivity relies on the extraction of substances from their processual relations to produce things that appear to have no such relations—objects that are simply there, for us to admire, desire, purchase, and use. The “objectivity” of these objects is a product of a set of relations; it is illusory, or partial in any case, to the extent that these objects are not simply objects as such, but that they, for all their specificity, arise out of certain kinds of processes (extractive, productive), give rise to others (consumptive, waste-producing), and entangle their owners in relational ecologies that are morally imbued, materially generative, and dramatic in their effects on the world that is passed on to future generations.

The approach I advocate in what follows shares object-oriented philosophers’ goal of a metaphysical realism, but approaches it from a direction that is in some respects the polar opposite. It begins from the premise that, in an ultimate sense, there are no objects, only events, and that what defines those events is a relational encounter in which subjectivity is central. This does not mean that it begins as a “revolt against substance,” for the world of relational process is as substantive as any world of objects can be. It begins, however, from the subjective encounter. It begins, following Alfred North Whitehead (1933), Martin Heidegger (1962), Bruno Latour (2003), and Isabelle Stengers (1997), from matters of concern, and it does this because it is such matters that we are always in the midst of. It begins with a refusal to extricate the “knowing self” or “subject” from the relations that constitute it. This article proposes an evocation of what a “process-relational” ontology entails at its phenomenological and hermeneutic outset: a beginning from matters of concern, yet a beginning that allows a reaching outward to others who are similarly bound up—openly and not deterministically—within their own matters of concern.


“It’s a speculative accelerated realist bootleg throwdown! This episode features STEVEN SHAVIRO and ALEXANDER GALLOWAY discussing their recently published books THE UNIVERSE OF THINGS: ON SPECULATIVE REALISM and LARUELLE: AGAINST THE DIGITAL. DOMINIC PETTMAN introduces and EUGENE THACKER moderates this conversation that took place AT THE NEW SCHOOL IN NOVEMBER 2014. An additional recording of Shaviro discussing the #Accelerationism movement in JUNE 2014 AT PRO QM IN BERLIN appears at the end of the episode.

The sound quality is a bit buggy from start to finish–difficult to hear on occasion, encoding hiccups, cell phone interference and more–reminders from the Real of objects’ permanent permeability, as well their ineludable availability to disruption and translation”


I disagree with Žižek on the radical distinctness of human subjectivity. I think sapience is an elaborated capacity of sentience, which is itself a capacity emerging from organic dispositionality viz. the capacity for sensation. All wholly natural, ecologically evolved and material-energetic. Yeah for me, boo for the beard.

However, where I board the Slavoj-train (metaphorically speaking) is the way he talks about “the madness of the passage to the Symbolic itself, of imposing a symbolic order onto the chaos of the Real.” Human phantasy (imagination, subjectivity, etc) is generated via the delimiting neuronal specification of language. Dramatic, I know – but said another way, self-consciousness is the direct result the embodied brain’s ability to reference itself through symbolization (tokens). Mirror-neurons, pattern recognizers, blah blah blah. We create synthetic caricatures of experienced realities using symbolic tokens and language to manifest images and narratives about the Real. Thus, we enact a massive, near universally delusion epistemic cognitive detachment from the world with various and mixed results for survival and adaptation. Sometimes we use this detachment to contemplate and imagine and innovate, in other cases we project our fears and nightmares via a multitude of violent acts and collective insanities. At times symbolically achieved sapience has served individuals and collectives well, at other times it drives us off the brink of sustainability and appropriateness.

Here is Joseph Carew on Žižek’s framing of madness and consciousness:

“In short, the passage from darkness to light only occurs at the level of the Symbolic: in the Real, nothing changes, unruliness (our break from nature) is left untouched. It is this aspect of the intrinsic madness of culture, language, and phenomenal reality, its psychotic lack of contact with the world, that Žižek claims we forget, that we must necessarily forget, if the transcendental misrecognition of reality necessary to subjectification as a reaction formation is to be a successful “compensation.” All our discourses, all our “truths,” are nothing but the deluded ravings of the asylum unaware of their true origin within the founding gesture of subjectivity as a recoil spurred on by the brutal trauma of violently awakening up into a dismembering hemorrhaging of being, the ultimate ontological catastrophe. All the beauty of the world merely belies its true, unbearable horror: “[i]f we take into consideration the many terrible things in nature and the spiritual world and the great many other things that a benevolent hand seems to cover up from us, then we could not doubt that [the ego] sits enthroned over a world of terrors.” In this respect, “the true point of ‘madness’ […] is 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 paranoid, ‘mad.’” Paradoxically, the world can only become known to itself—being can only replicate itself within thought—if its medium of self-disclosure operates “with no external support of its truth,” without ever touching the Real.


From RADIO LAB A conversation with Eugene Thacker on the truth, beauty and post-goodness of pessimism (nihilism?)

Eugene Thacker is an author and associate professor at The New School in New York. Thacker is known for his writings on philosophy, media theory, music/sound studies, and writings on the horror and science fiction genres. His work is often associated with the philosophy of nihilism and pessimism. Thacker’s most recent books are the Horror of Philosophy series and After Life, and he also writes a column called “Occultural Studies.” He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington, Seattle, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University.

In his ongoing series Horror of Philosophy, Thacker explores the idea of the “unthinkable world” as represented in the horror genre, in philosophies of pessimism and nihilism, and in the apophatic (“darkness”) mysticism traditions. In the first volume, In The Dust Of This Planet, Thacker calls the horror of philosophy “the isolation of those moments in which philosophy reveals its own limitations and constraints, moments in which thinking enigmatically confronts the horizon of its own possibility.”

Horror, fashion, and the end of the world … things get weird as we explore the undercurrents of thought that link nihilists, beard-stroking philosophers, Jay-Z, and True Detective.


As DMF says the cool kids are into nihilism, but its MORE than that! Pop nihilism is the slime that oozes from the deep cracks of our demolished hopes and dreams. And for the better. Black is the new everything baby! This world is made of mad accelerations and disintegrating veneers so why not keep it real and lay our flesh upon the earth in a final inhuman reckoning of all that we are and could have been? Confront those horizons of possibility head-and-heart on..

SO what come after we lose our illusions? We still need to live. And I for one refuse to curl up and just cry myself to sleep (although that does happen). I want to go down fighting. But how can we say YES to such an ancient NO? What kind of post-ies are we willing to tolerate, to build, to salvage and demand? The revaluation of values, of practice, of course – but how are we going to arm ourselves and with what? Please discuss.