Changing Fortunes of Contemporary French Theory

Here is an audio recording  on “The Changing Fortunes of Contemporary French Theory,” in which I say some flattering things about Laruelle and some unflattering things about Latour.

The recording is from a recent lecture in the Film and Visual Studies program at Harvard. The doctoral students there were incredibly interesting and generous discussants. All in all an excellent visit.

Here is the dossier of network images discussed about 14 minutes into the talk.

Immanence

There’s a new issue of Parrhesia. It’s one of the most interesting journals active today and I encourage you to take a peek if you haven’t already. In browsing through the issue I was struck by a few things. First, Laruelle’s fingerprints are all over this issue. This is evident more in the reviews than the articles two of which are by or about Bernard Stiegler — although it’s interesting to note that Stiegler has credited Laruelle with “having introduced me to the work of Gilbert Simondon.” In addition to the review of Laruelle’s Dictionary of Non-Philosophy, I know that Daniel Barber, Alex Dubilet, Anthony Smith, and Ian James are all interested in Laruelle or working on him in some way or another.

The second thing that occurs to me is how important immanence remains in contemporary debates. Immanence has always occupied an odd place in the history of philosophy, often appearing as a counter-orthodoxy or heresy that tears the fabric of metaphysical representation. Theories of immanence resist describing things “as” they are. Rather immanence identifies things “in” whatever they are.

But before exploring the how of immanence, let’s revisit the why. Why should we care about theories of immanence? Is immanence a good thing? If so, why? Continue reading

Network Pessimism

I’ve been thinking a lot about pessimism recently. Eugene has been deep in this material for some time already. In fact he has a new, lengthy manuscript on pessimism called Infinite Resignation, which is a bit of departure from his other books in terms of tone and structure. I’ve read it and it’s excellent. Definitely “the worst” he’s ever written! Following the style of other treatises from the history of philosophical pessimism–Leopardi, Cioran, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and others–the bulk of the book is written in short aphorisms. It’s very poetic language, and some sections are driven by his own memories and meditations, all in an attempt to plumb the deepest, darkest corners of the worst the universe has to offer.

Meanwhile, the worst can’t stay hidden. Pessimism has made it to prime time, to NPR, and even right-wing media. Despite all this attention, Eugene seems to have little interest in showing his manuscript to publishers. A true pessimist! Not to worry, I’m sure the book will see the light of day eventually. Or should I say dead of night? When it does, the book is sure to sadden, discourage, and generally worsen the lives of Thacker fans everywhere. Continue reading

Book Release & Panel Discussion

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SPECULATIVE FUTURES
A Conversation with Steven Shaviro & Alexander Galloway

Moderated by Eugene Thacker

Presented by the Liberal Studies Program of the New School for Social Research & the School of Media Studies, New School for Public Engagement.

Friday, November 7, 2014, 5:30pm

Continue reading

Warm Pride

I follow with astonishment the discourse on global warming, because, first and foremost, we’re screwed and, second, nobody is doing the slightest thing about it.

The discourse seems to be changing today as well. The conversation on global warming is slowly but decisively changing from “addressing” warming to “living with” warming. We’ve shifted from a language of natural equilibrium, to a language of irresistible evolution. This is what I find particularly astonishing. We moderns, lovers of sober rationality and the freedom from constraint, have slowly succumbed to the ultimate amor fati. So unwilling to adhere to a disciplinary regime if it might curtail our way of life, we now willingly submit to the greatest force of all. Those who were the most levelheaded pragmatists now unwittingly adopt a brute fatalism. Climate Science = Destiny. Continue reading

Queer Atonality

I’ve been reading and re-reading Jordana Rosenberg’s fascinating essay on “The Molecularization of Sexuality,” published recently in Theory and Event. It’s a long and challenging piece, one that demands a high level of attention from the reader, but at the same time offers rich rewards in equal measure. Rosenberg covers a lot of ground, dealing with the contingency and fragility of “being together,” and provocatively challenging some of the tenets of contemporary queer theory and critical theory.

The essay is devoted to what Rosenberg calls the “ontological turn” in recent discussions in the humanities. By ontological turn, she means that strange polyglot that spans everyone from Jane Bennett to Beatriz Preciado, from Steven Shaviro to John Protevi, and from Eugene Thacker to Samuel Delany. What a bunch! But more generally, she cites speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, new materialism, and neo-vitalism. Labeling the ontological turn a form of “onto-primitivism,” Rosenberg puts forth a powerful polemic: “the ontological turn is a kind of theoretical primitivism that presents itself as a methodological avant-garde.” Continue reading

Laruelle: Against the Digital

I’m pleased to announce the publication of a new book, Laruelle: Against the Digital. My position is a bit idiosyncratic. Rather than offering a synopsis or critical annotation of Laruelle’s work, the book aims to collide Laruelle’s non-standard image_minimethod with the concept of digitality. I say concept of digitality because the book does not discuss the Web, computers, video games, or even binary numbers. Instead the book addresses a general principle that subtends and facilitates all of these kinds of technologies.

I define digitality as a process of distinction. Thus I see an immediate resemblance with Laruelle’s notion of the Philosophical Decision. Philosophy and digitality both require a fundamental act in which something is divided into two. For example metaphysics requires the notion of a division between essences and instances. And on a computer chip data is modeled and processed by means of voltage differentials. This fundamental action is important: distinction, division, decision, or discretization. Not so much the proverbial “zero and one” of computer culture, I’m focused here on “one and two,” or what it means to move from one to two. Continue reading

Superpositions (pt. 2) — Seven Paths

(This is the second of two excerpts from my talk at “Superpositions–A Symposium on Laruelle and the Humanities” hosted at the Center for Transformative Media at the New School. Read part one.)

In preparing for this conference, I was reminded of the many different kinds of undertakings represented here and elsewhere. With his background in philosophy and religious studies, Anthony Paul Smith has produced a treatise on a non-standard theory of nature and ecology. And I am just finishing Katerina Kolozova’s book Cut of the Real on Laruelle and poststructuralist feminism, which I find to be an incredibly original and courageous undertaking, not least because she’s taking on some of the most fundamental assumptions of the entire field of feminist theory! Continue reading

Superpositions

(This is the first of two excerpts from my talk at “Superpositions–A Symposium on Laruelle and the Humanities” hosted at the Center for Transformative Media at the New School. Read part two.)

Newcomers to Laruelle often find his work challenging. There is little familiar in Laruelle to serve as anchor, particularly for those of us reared on marxism, poststructuralism, or cultural studies. Laruelle is no sixty-eight radical like Guy Debord or Michel Foucault. He is not a public intellectual cast from the Sartrean mold like Alain Badiou. He does not practice phenomenology or dialectics, and he has little sympathy for today’s reigning Hegelianism championed by the likes of Slavoj Žižek, Catherine Malabou, or Judith Butler. His is not a familiar way of thinking. In fact it is a genuinely “strange” one, or as Anthony Paul Smith has called it, a stranger thought.

Laruelle gives a basic instruction, one that reveals the distinction between philosophy and theory–or “science,” as Laruelle, Althusser and others often prefer to called it. His instruction is that the best response to philosophy is not more philosophy. The best response to philosophy is to stop doing it. Continue reading