Saturday, December 30, 2017

Recommended in the category of music

Geneva Jacuzzi

Below are some excerpts of reviews from the Philadelphia section of Deli Magazine, featuring new music artists that I particularly enjoy and thought After Nature readers might enjoy as well. I've also added a feature on John Maus by Vice's new music channel Noisey.

First up is Void Vision:

New Music Video: "The Source" - Void Vision

Smokey, shadowy synths come with a submissive wrapped in cellophane; the recently unearthed video for “The Source” by Void Vision visualizes the mysterious, edgy momentum that Shari Vari creates. Found on her latest LP Sub Rosa (Mannequin Records), the song’s alluring yet creepy vibe comes to life via haunting keys, generating a hyperactive tumultuous tale. Capturing a sinister, spiritual splitting, the video confounds with its perplexing optics. You can catch Void Vision tomorrow night at Johnny Brenda’s with ADULT and Ritual Howls.

Link HERE.

Philly's own Blood Sound, with a new retro-looking compilation of their trio sounds, now that the band has diminished to a duo.

"Dark prom pop" purveyors Blood Sound plan to release their debut EP, as a duo, in 2018. However, before that happens, they wanted to share a collection of their favorite recordings with Chris J., who has decided to ride off on his new motorcycle towards the next phase of his life. Sink into your own stratosphere with Everything Is Always in the Past, as the sleek synths and pulse-pacing rhythms demand for you to dance in the dark. Before turning the page to a New Year/new beginning, embrace the memories of this sonic snapshot.

Link HERE. Link to Blood Sound's newest streaming anthology as of December 2017, HERE.

And always fun, Geneva Jacuzzi. A nice write-up HERE.

Interview with John Maus by Vice's Noisey: titled "John Maus at the End of the World." Brings readers up to speed with what Maus has been doing the past six years. HERE. John Maus show featuring Geneva Jacuzzi, HERE.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Resources for starting the new semester

Spring semester is ever fast approaching, thus I thought to share a few resources that I myself take advantage of when preparing course materials.

First is a "Generic Syllabus Maker" which allows you to enter the span of your course and select the the days you meet. This app then does the rest when it comes to matching dates with the days you meet for the length of your course. "Fill out the form to receive a list of all the dates when your course will meet during the specified semester." HERE.

See also this article from "Professor Hacker" over at the Chronicle with advice on starting a new semester, HERE. Of most interest to me was the "On Syllabus and Course design" HERE (with the great tip of not fixing what is already working); "Grading" HERE (the section on grading appeals could be pretty helpful); and "First Week" HERE.

While I usually teach an intersession class (i.e. "January term" for some schools, or "winter term") - this year is Animal Ethics online, as was last year - I nevertheless find that the winter "break"  provides a nice span of time to prepare spring classes and refresh on upcoming course content. Even with a year-round contract Moravian recognizes that faculty do best with breaks/spans of time in-between terms to prepare course content, make adjustments, etc. etc.

I remember that Loras College philosophy department did not allow professors any "break" by stating that because we were under contract year-round that that meant we were expected not only to remain on campus during January and over the holidays (supposedly in order to "be available for students"), but also that we were to continue to hold our regular expected 10+ office hours per week. Yes, we were expected to have roughly ten (if not ten to fifteen, if we're being realistic about what they expected) office hours per week. We we expected to be available every single day of the week, including over the students' winter "break."  In my ten-plus years of teaching I never heard of an institution requiring ten to fifteen office hours per week. That's insane.

I remember the Provost sent us all an email saying that January term wasn't a time to "prep" classes (she was the one who put "prep" in quotation marks, interestingly). But in my mind I was left asking: when else would faculty prepare spring courses? The summer before? How on earth could faculty be expected to remember, quite literally, the content of all of the courses they'd be teaching the entire year? I am so glad I went on to do bigger and better things in my career and just leave Loras behind. Moravian is a much, much better fit for me. Loras was not a good "fit" by any stretch of the imagination.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Because lampooning Millennials and their smartphones never gets old

Vice covering Ingrid Goes West (2016), HERE. The basic premise of the movie? Summed up perfectly in this line: "If you don't have anyone to share anything with, then what's the point in living?" (The sad part is that many Millennials actually do feel that way.)

Mentioned in the interview with the film's creator is THIS article in The Atlantic: "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?" The answer? (Take a wild guess.) But this was my favorite part, of course. Only difference is that I lived in the middle of nowhere, technically now a nature preserve. Still, my independence was the same. Afterall, Gen-X knew then, and knows now, how to take care of itself and how to get things done.
during my own teenage years as a member of Generation X, smoking had lost some of its romance, but independence was definitely still in. My friends and I plotted to get our driver’s license as soon as we could, making DMV appointments for the day we turned 16 and using our newfound freedom to escape the confines of our suburban neighborhood. Asked by our parents, “When will you be home?,” we replied, “When do I have to be?”
Gen X managed to stretch adolescence beyond all previous limits: Its members started becoming adults earlier and finished becoming adults later. Beginning with Millennials and continuing with iGen, adolescence is contracting again—but only because its onset is being delayed. Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.

Ok, well maybe THIS article from Vice on dating might lighten up the mood. Sadly, though, iPhone addicts (Millennials and beyond) are losing touch with not only how to date, but how to interact with other human beings, at all.)

One more try. "I Tried to Do Tinder Like a Guy." HERE. Yet I marvel. Apparently Millennials find it easier to text than actually, you know, talk to someone they like. Ugh.

Ok. What about HERE. "Monologue: My Life Might Look Great on Instagram, But Deep Down I’m Actually a Ciranolid Isopod." Yes. Now that's funny.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The minds of plants (Aeon)

Memories are thought to be so fundamentally cognitive that some theorists argue that they’re a marker of whether an organism can do the most basic kinds of thinking. Surely memory requires a brain?

"What does it even mean to say that a mallow can learn and remember the location of the sunrise? The idea that plants can behave intelligently, let alone learn or form memories, was a fringe notion until quite recently. 

However, over the past decade or so this view has been forcefully challenged. The mallow isn’t an anomaly. Plants are not simply organic, passive automata. We now know that they can sense and integrate information about dozens of different environmental variables, and that they use this knowledge to guide flexible, adaptive behaviour."

Excerpt from a great article from Aeon which you can read HERE.

See also After Nature posts "Can plants really communicate with each other?"; "Some thoughts on a phenomenology of vegetal life"; and "Mathew David Segall, media ecology, and biosemiotics."

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Kantian Foundation of Schopenhauer's Pessimism (NDPR Review)

Dennis Vanden Auweele, The Kantian Foundation of Schopenhauer's Pessimism, Routledge, 2017, 242pp., $149.95 (hbk), ISBN 9781138744271.

Reviewed by Robert Wicks, The University of Auckland

The title of Dennis Vanden Auweele's book raises one's curiosity. As it tells us that Schopenhauer's pessimism has a Kantian foundation, it intimates that Kant's philosophy itself contains a pessimistic strand. This is unexpected, since pessimism does not appear to be a particularly Kantian quality. Kant's moral theory upholds the belief in individual freedom, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who serves to coordinate happiness with virtue in an ideal end-state. The book reminds us, though, that a pessimistic aspect of Kant resides in a position he maintained in the later part of his career -- one reminiscent of the Christian doctrine of original sin -- that rooted in the human being...

Read more HERE.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Wolfendale and Transcendentalism

I won't comment on a lengthy but well-worth-the-read post, which is quite personal and explores just as much, put up recently by one Pete Wolfendale, HERE. Titled "Transcendental Blues" it is a personalized exploratory post that takes the reader through topics such as mental health and suicide, neuroscience and logic, and much of Mark Fisher's work.

I've indirectly known Pete for a few years and have only corresponded with him some, but from reading the post I certainly feel for him. Along with Terence Blake and Ray Brassier, Pete has been grouped along with myself in an "axis of address" toward neo-rationalism, pragmatism and naturalism, recent French philosophy and the sciences, and (critically) Deleuze, Badiou, Laruelle, and Meillassoux. But those are not the only reasons I identify with what he has to say (see page 162 and onward which addresses inane comments made by a certain blog kingpin concerning some supposed "neurology deathcult" and "mindless rationalism" that is "brainwashing" poor young graduate students, a deathcult that is best represented by we "rationalist mindslaves" HERE).

Pete has also put up two rather good papers HERE and HERE covering "Transcendental Realism" and "The Value of Art."

To be frank, if I were pressed to label the axis in question (which I'm not, so this is free-form), I would say that my proposed titling of it as a "speculative naturalism" would seem to fit (even for Blake whose discussions often center on scientific methodology moreso than nature per se. Still, Blake should nevertheless be included). But is this axis a "neurology deathcult?" Are "rationalist mindslaves" "brainwashing" poor young graduate students? Hardly. Speculative naturalism just fits so much better and is actually an honest encapsulation of what brings together these four philosophers, as I see it at least.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Science-fiction, entre Hegel, Dick, Asimov et les autres... (Post by Strass de la philosophie blog)

For French-reading After Nature readers...

As always, be sure to visit the original post and site too.

Science-fiction, entre Hegel, Dick, Asimov et les autres...
// Strass de la philosophie

Avec Logique de la science-fiction, Jean-Clet Martin poursuit son œuvre singulière, multiple, inventant à chaque fois des agencements avec d'autres créateurs qui sont autant de mondes étranges qui forcent à penser. Traçant cette fois une ligne entre Hegel et la science-fiction, Jean-Clet Martin attire le philosophe allemand dans des zones où celui-ci s'aventure à travers des mondes pluriels, acosmiques, alternatifs qui altèrent les contours de sa philosophie, en redessinent les frontières, en redéfinissent les implications. Parallèlement, lue à travers les yeux d'un Hegel explorateur de nouveaux espaces anormaux, la science-fiction s'affronte à une tension qui la transforme en un point de vue sur le monde par lequel le monde devient autre. Avec ce livre, Jean-Clet Martin trace les directions d'une philosophie spéculative/spéculaire qui, contemplant son visage dans le miroir de la SF, ne s'aperçoit plus que sous les traits d'une chose nouvelle, étrange, déformée, contrainte à penser un monde multiple d'accidents, contingent, un monde de différences où les possibles existent en même temps, habité d'un devenir à l'échelle de l'univers entier. 

Entretien avec Jean-Clet Martin.
Quand et comment as-tu commencé à t'intéresser à la SF et comment as-tu tissé le rapport à la philosophie ?
Mon intérêt pour la science-fiction est lié d'abord à la lecture de Lovecraft, notamment La maison de la sorcièrequi explore des espaces dont le nombre de dimensions touche au vertige. Très édifiant mais fort angoissant – et le vertige faisait depuis toujours un peu mon affaire. C'était donc tout juste après mon livre sur Deleuze, en 1993, où je m'attèle à un problème semblable, celui des variétés d'espaces qui exigent de nous un sens tout autre de la mesure. Il se trouve que Lovecraft fait référence à Hegel pour envisager ce genre de rythme un peu fou, contradictoire dans un texte sur le mètre poétique. Le style de Lovecraft me fit penser parfois à Borges pour la brièveté des textes et, depuis un moment, j'étais pris par cette manière singulière de créer des « fictions spéculatives ». Le vrai coup de cœur tient cependant au film de Stanley Kubrick qui a été une révélation : 2001, Odyssée de l'espace. J'ai le sentiment que j'ai cherché à marquer la stèle du monolithe sur lequel s'ouvre le film en y inscrivant un certain nombre de noms, d'y consigner les concepts qui comptent et qui épousent l'énigme de cette pierre noire. Hegel, sa conception de la mesure citée par Mitchell et d'autres grands noms de la SF de la fin du XIXe, devenait par conséquent inévitable pour entrer un peu dans l'histoire du genre d'une manière qui ne soit pas chronologique mais plutôt en suivant un fil logique, dialectique par certains aspects si on entend dans le mot dialectique une forme d'opéra conflictuel. En tout cas space opera me semblait convenir parfaitement à cette dialectique diabolique.
Dans un précédent livre, tu avais déjà entraîné Hegel dans une « intrigue criminelle ». Ici, dans ce livre, il ne s'agit pas, bien sûr, de faire un commentaire ou une explication de Hegel. Il me semble que tu immerges Hegel dans une sorte d'expérimentation, que tu fais se confronter le texte hégélien à une expérience inédite pour lui, que tu le conduis jusqu'à une limite par laquelle il déborde de lui-même. C'est un peu ce que tu dis au sujet de la SF : c'est une expérience des limites et de l'au-delà de la limite. Et cette expérience rejoint ce que tu dis de la philosophie de Hegel : elle est une philosophie où le devenir prime, où chaque être se développe à partir d'une contradiction immanente qui l'entraîne dans un mouvement de transformation, un devenir autre. Je dirai que tu fais subir aux textes de Hegel, et en particulier ceux qui concernent la logique, une expérience qui est celle de la SF, comme si Hegel devenait une espèce de vaisseau spatial lâché dans le cosmos, affrontant des mondes inconnus par lesquels il est aussi changé, transformé. Pourquoi as-tu éprouvé le besoin de retrouver Hegel pour le plonger dans cette expérience ? Pourquoi lui et pas un autre philosophe comme par exemple Deleuze, que l'on aurait peut-être davantage attendu – peut-être trop ?
Partir de Deleuze aurait été une bonne façon de procéder mais dans une perspective peut-être trop idéale. Deleuze n'était pas connu des grands auteurs dont je traite, trop jeune pour les interpeller. Il en va pour la SF de la même manière que du cinéma qui ne connaissait pas Deleuze. Deleuze a pris le soin par conséquent de prendre un philosophe comme Bergson pour entrer dans l'expérience du cinéma et parler d'un monde que la philosophie bergsonienne appelait vraiment, des thèses qui auraient pu produire des effets sur ces images nouvelles qui s'ouvraient du coup entièrement à Matière et mémoire, le livre le plus étrange de Bergson, quoique de manière indirecte. Donc Hegel, sa Logique si peu logique était inévitable non pas seulement parce que j'avais déjà écrit sur lui, mais parce que son nom est invoqué au détour de certains romans de la SF, à ma propre surprise je dois dire. Hegel est en effet le penseur du devenir et de la contradiction qui font sortir l'être de sa réserve, un être tenaillé sans cesse à la marge par la destruction, le néant, l'intrusion d'un alien – aliénation est son concept – qui sans cesse appelle un problème à résoudre, une échappée à ouvrir. J'ai lu très jeune Hegel, peut-être sans le comprendre, de sorte que  la science-fiction en propose un autre portrait que celui auquel nous avons été habitués, portrait assez horrible qui s'évertuait à en faire le penseur totalitaire de la totalité. Mais en fait, le système de Hegel jamais ne se ferme, à l'image du cycle d'Asimov qui fait de la fondation tout autant un effondrement. Le cercle se brise. Alors oui, la confrontation de Hegel à la science-fiction modifie tout et me porte à une réécriture de la Logique, un peu comme, chez Borges, Pierre Ménard réécrit le Quichotte. Mais à la différence de cette réplique, j'ai misé plutôt sur une variation qui porte Hegel à se renouveler par les cycles de la SF. Alors, ce qui est deleuzien dans cette histoire c'est, comme dit Deleuze quelque part dans une lettre, que « la lecture d'un auteur n'a d'intérêt qu'à travers une recréation ». Bergson est sauvé par Deleuze du spiritualisme un peu poussiéreux du XIXe quand il entre au cinéma… Je dirais qu'il en va de même de Hegel : la rengaine, la circularité se décentrent lorsqu'elles entrent dans les grands cycles de la SF : « cycle des robots », « cycle de fondation », etc. Aussi, en se faisant vaisseau spatial, la Logique va connaître forcément d'étranges métamorphoses. Un Hegel qui n'est pas seulement philosophiquement barbu mais hologrammatique et spectral sous cet éclairage de l'avenir.
Si Hegel entre dans ton livre dans un agencement avec la SF qui rend possible pour le texte hégélien une expérience inédite pour lui, en même temps les livres de SF que tu convoques sont eux-mêmes soumis à une expérience inédite qui extrait d'eux ce qu'ils contenaient mais que l'expérience amène au jour : un point de vue sur l'être, le devenir, la pluralité, etc. En quoi ces points de vue sur le monde que tu extrais de la SF sont-ils propres à la SF ? Pour mon compte, je pourrais reprendre au sujet de la poésie beaucoup de choses que tu dis en rapport avec la SF. Au début du livre, tu écris que « la science-fiction réalise une épreuve terrible quand elle pénètre soudain dans la nuit infernale, sidérale ». Pour moi, cette expérience de ce que tu appelles « la nuit » est celle de la poésie. Est-ce que tu penses un jour consacrer un livre à d'autres formes de littérature et qui se rapprocherait de ce que tu fais là avec Hegel et la SF, même si en un sens tu l'as déjà fait avec Borges ?
Oui, la poésie tient d'une expérience des limites qui va au pire, qui empire selon un empirisme radical. Et je crois que tu l'as bellement montré dans ton livre à partir de Lovecraft, Théorie des MultiRêves. Il y a pour ma part des rapports que j'essaie de tisser entre Igitur de Mallarmé et Prometheus de Ridley Scott. Mais les moyens ne sont pas du tout les mêmes. La poésie n'est pas de même texture ni de même format, ni de même rythme. Ce serait comme réduire, par exemple, le cinéma à l'opéra ou encore au récit. On sait bien que quelque chose passe dans le cinéma qui lui appartient en propre. C'est la grande difficulté que doit affronter même Deleuze. On pourrait lui reprocher en effet que s'il sauve le cinéma de la soumission à la narration, à une histoire racontée en insistant plutôt sur le montage comme procédé spécial, inconnu de la littérature, la philosophie intervient cependant dans sa lecture à travers Peirce qui en impose la signalétique. Donc l'originalité première semble se ternir par la soumission au concept qui ne vaut guère mieux… C'est la raison pour laquelle à la fin Deleuze est obligé de dire qu'il n'a pas fait une histoire du cinéma et que le cinéma n'entre pas davantage dans un concept sans perdre son originalité.
Il en va de même dans ma lecture de la SF qui n'est pas une histoire unifiée par un temps, un lieu, une action. Le space opera concerne des dimensions infinies. Il me semble que la Logique produit des procédés et des signes qui ne s'enchaînent pas de la même manière que le poème et d'après des matières dont Hegel permet de penser la suite, les séries, les carrefours pratiques qui sont loin de se réduire à la philosophie. Ce sont des croisements, des voisinages, des agencements témoignant de « la crise des fondations » mais en nous entraînant dans des espaces dont Hegel n'avait encore aucune idée. Dans ces espaces de la fiction spéculative, Borges apparaît en effet comme un grand auteur, et tu fais bien de le rappeler. Je lui ai consacré un livre qui avait à cœur de développer ses thèses sur le récit et le poème, très différentes de ce que Ricœur ou même Rancière pouvaient dire de la fiction, du temps raconté selon la représentation aristotélicienne ou augustinienne. Mais la mise en intrigue de la logique d'Aristote, son organum est détrôné depuis longtemps, et c'est de cette déconstruction dont témoigne la nouvelle Logique de Hegel, elle qui joue de la contradiction, du tiers-exclu et de l'identité devenue problématique. Borges et Hegel forment un couple merveilleux qu'il fallait réaliser par l'intermédiaire d'un livre.
Si j'en viens à ce que tu privilégies chez Hegel et qui en fait un auteur particulièrement pertinent pour être mis en rapport avec la SF, c'est une certaine logique de la différence, puisque tu vois aussi à l'œuvre dans la SF une logique de la différence. Tu trouves chez Hegel une logique de la différence où celle-ci est interne, immanente. Il me semble que c'est cette logique de la différence que tu poursuis à travers ce que tu écris. En quoi pour la penser Hegel est-il un auteur particulièrement intéressant ? Qu'est-ce qui dans cette logique de la différence serait propre à Hegel par rapport à un autre de tes auteurs de prédilection et qui est Gilles Deleuze ?
Deleuze et Hegel, ce n'est pas le même univers. Hegel n'avait pas comme Deleuze une idée du Chaos. Il reste un penseur de l'infini. Je crois que la SF décline son mouvement au milieu si je puis dire, à la pointe d'un versant où infini et chaos se croisent comme une courbe, une trajectoire peut arracher au chaos une figure. C'est là une limite que la science-fiction affronte en embarquant Hegel dans une aventure dont il ressort méconnaissable – et presque déjà comme Bergsonien ou Deleuzien. De toute manière une complicité est à l'œuvre que Deleuze montre par exemple dans Qu'est-ce que la philosophie ?Notamment autour de la question « qu'est-ce que penser abstrait ? », question pour laquelle il se réfère explicitement à Hegel – et à plusieurs reprises, comme chacun peut le voir s'il s'en donne la peine. Le propre de Hegel, en tout cas, c'était de dire déjà que le jugement, le syllogisme est dans les choses et pas dans la représentation. Un aimant montre une opposition qui n'est pas celle de l'entendement. En le brisant en plusieurs morceaux, les deux pôles magnétiques se reconstituent sur chacun. Et donc la différence n'est plus du jugement, à moins de dire que ce sont les choses elles-mêmes qui jugent à leur manière. On voit donc qu'il y a déjà une forme d'esprit dans la matière. Voilà un vitalisme que Deleuze et Hegel partagent incontestablement. Et cette matière-esprit constitue réellement le souci des romans de science-fiction comme jamais aucune autre littérature ne l'a éprouvé. C'est, me semble-t-il, ce que mon essai réussit à montrer dans le détail. Après, bien sûr, on peut se scandaliser d'oser le rapprochement Hegel/Asimov. Mais il faut dire que ce sont les mêmes qui crient au scandale quand Deleuze compromet la pureté bergsonienne avec le caractère trop prosaïque du cinéma. Pour moi, le prosaïque n'est jamais de trop et Hegel ne revit qu'en affrontant la contingence qui fait le réel. Bon, c'est pour moi une raison suffisante de fêter hors de l'Université le 200e anniversaire de la parution de la petite logique en 1817. Allons-y gaiement du coup pour un scoop qui se nommerait « Logique de l'encyclopédie, 2017 »…
Dans ton livre tu as de l'admiration pour plusieurs auteurs de SF en particulier : Philip K. Dick, bien sûr, mais aussi Asimov ou d'autres. Est-ce que tu pourrais dire ce qui t'intéresse surtout chez chacun d'entre eux ? On peut commencer par Philip K. Dick…
Eh bien chez lui, on est en plein dans la question de l'effondrement. Effondrement de l'esprit qui descend dans les pires turpitudes du réel. Au point de faire l'expérience d'un temps brisé, d'un monde en perpétuel état de bifurquer non sans nous faire bégayer, l'esprit devenant indiscernable de la matière. Esprit et matière sont les « deux attributs d'une unique substance » disons. Mais, au lieu de viser la gloire et la béatitude de celui qui monte dans les niveaux ascensionnels de la raison, au lieu de gravir « des genres de connaissance » échelonnés vers le haut, on assiste chez lui à une déraison majeure, à un épuisement des facultés qui entrent sur le seuil de l'évanouissement. Effondrement central d'où surgit une vision spéciale, stroboscopique, qui est comme la pulsation du monde lui-même. Un spinozisme inversé. Ça me plaît bien cette formule, parce que Hegel aussi est un spinoziste qui pratique l'escalier dans ce qu'il a de plus vertigineux. On pourrait réécrire Vertigo et filmer la scène de l'escalier devenue anthologique avec Dick en poche, Ubik pour n'en emporter qu'un. Il est non pas le plus défoncé des écrivains mais le plus contemplatif. Il est aujourd'hui une figure aussi importante, aussi incontournable que Kafka ou Joyce, toute proportion gardée pour la reconnaissance de leur différence.
Asimov ?
C'est tout juste énorme. Il était ami avec un philosophe, Gotthard Günther, qui a fait sa thèse sur Hegel et avait écrit également des textes sur la cybernétique. C'est le point de passage entre La Logique et Le cycle de Fondation. Là, on tient une œuvre colossale, très écrite, traduite parfois en France par Michel Deutsch un Hölderlinien patenté, ami de Lacoue-Labarthe et qui sut lui impulser un sens tragique. Je pense en particulier à Un caillou dans le ciel. Impossible d'entrer ici dans Le cycle de Fondation qu'il faudrait lire au pluriel tant le fondement perd sa raison. Le livre le plus fort philosophiquement parlant tient dans le titre La fin de l'éternité. Titre paradoxal dans lequel Asimov, comme ferait un Borges au meilleur de sa forme, brise le cercle vicieux de la circularité Hégélienne. Difficile d'en rendre compte en quelques mots mais voici pour le moins une citation pour aiguiller la curiosité du lecteur « Harlan écoutait intensément, pris par la vision d'un puissant cercle dans le temps, refermé sur lui-même et traversant l'Eternité sur une partie de son parcours (…). Cercle complet ! Cercle complet ! Et aucun moyen pour Harlan de briser le cercle en un seul et dernier défi (…). Le cercle tourne et tourne sans cesse ». Toute la question du récit sera ensuite « est-ce que le cercle peut se briser ? ». Un moment particulièrement fort, plus fracassant que la Dialectique négative d'Adorno et qui fait d'Asimov un puissant lecteur de Hegel doué d'une imagination dont on n'a vraiment pas idée.
Poul Anderson
J'ai envie de dire que c'est un sommet du genre. Il y a notamment un texte à vous emporter hors du cercle. Il s'agit de Tau zéro. Peut-être le livre le plus abouti qui intrigue jusqu'aux astrophysiciens, par exemple Roland Lehoucq qui tente de nous expliquer en postface le « facteur de Lorentz ». Il faudrait demander à Aurélien Barrau de nous en parler, de ce livre tout à fait original dont James Blish dira qu'il s'agit du « récit de science-fiction ultime ». En tout cas, on y découvre une nouvelle articulation du fini et de l'infini. Nul besoin d'un temps infini pour traverser l'espace intersidéral. Il suffit d'une vie finie pour le faire. Entre 1 et 2, même si on peut diviser à l'infini les fractions et les étapes du parcours comme fait Zénon,  on peut franchir la béance. Et cette manière de résoudre le paradoxe de Zénon se pratique dans un vaisseau spatial capable d'accélérer sans cesse pour toucher à une vitesse qui contracte le temps. Donc vous ou moi, entre la naissance et la mort, nous aurions largement de quoi recouper l'univers en totalité et peut-être en rejoindre un autre, recommencer une vie ailleurs, dans un monde pris sur d'autres univers. C'est cette poursuite infernale de l'infini dans un vaisseau fini qui constitue un huis-clos capable justement de conduire le genre vers la porte… Il s'agit de l'huis-clos en tant que tel, celui de la déclosion des murs… Une version du Mystère de la chambre jaune portée aux confins du cosmos…
Van Vogt
C'est très différent, évidemment, mais Le cycle du non Atraduit pas Boris Vian en France a été un tremblement de terre dans la littérature. C'est un livre sur l'identité, sur le principe d'identité qui se trouve laminé par un récit totalement extérieur à toute chronologie. Dans le titre que je viens d'évoquer « non A » signifie « non aristotélicien ». Mais encore en logique – l'écriture du A surmonté d'une barre de négation –, on assume l'idée que A n'est pas égal à A. Et, par enchantement, on voit s'animer la Logique de Hegel dans un cartoon tout à fait spécial. J'ai insisté fortement sur ce livre qui est moins plaisant peut-être que ceux que j'évoquais tout à l'heure, assez rude, mais qui se trouve réellement inscrit dans une époque : celle de la crise des fondations qui court de Hegel à Russell. Le personnage principal de ce livre est un mort-vivant ou un spectre qui est « lui-même » et « son autre » et qui part à la rencontre de son masque mortuaire en traversant le système solaire. Il s'agit d'une forme d'identité qui se conquiert en migrant par plusieurs corps, comme nous le faisons tous d'ailleurs à travers la réplication cellulaire et le changement perpétuel de nos tissus. Mais dans le récit de Van Vogt, ce mouvement s'aggrave à la folie, pris par le menace constante qui nous pousse à nous demander sans cesse si, en effet, « je est un autre ».
Vernor Vinge ?
C'est le plus Deleuzien des auteurs de science-fiction. Il procède par meutes. Si on veut comprendre ce qu'est une multiplicité, c'est le livre qu'il faut lire : Un feu sur l'abime,qui est un incroyable roman concernant des agencements entre corps comme un ensemble de danseurs qui se composent selon des liens inorganiques mais d'une puissance de vie capable de franchir les failles du temps. C'est de la morphogenèse appliquée, mais dans une forme romanesque rarement atteinte. Dans Un tréfonds du ciel, on retrouve ces meutes mais le récit bascule vers d'autres multiplicités encore, notamment celles des images et de leurs associations dans l'esprit pour former des raccords, des mondes dont depuis Hume on n'avait plus idée. C'est un excellent voyage qui bouleverse complètement notre sens de l'expérience, de l'unité et de la différence…
Robert Charles Wilson ?
Wilson entre en science-fiction sur un mode que j'affectionne particulièrement. Il donne une vision de l'histoire sérielle ou spiralaire comme on le voit dans Vortex. Il est l'auteur des univers multiples et ne cesse de composer des récits démembrés par le plurivers. Un texte magistral le conduit à une réflexion sur le vivant qui se place au pinacle de la SF. Il s'agit de Bios où le nom de Hegel intervient d'ailleurs pour décrire la lutte du dedans avec le dehors. En l'occurrence, il s'agit d'une station spatiale installée sur une planète hostile. Mais rien ne résiste, le modèle de la résistance auquel la technique avait donné sa préférence ne sait rien de la résistance virale, des intrus qui viennent rompre la clôture immunitaire. Il n'y a pas de monade pour Wilson, aucun sas pour fermer une station spatiale au jeu vital des échanges parasitaires. Je crois que dans ce livre, c'est bien une nouvelle logique qui est à l'œuvre, celle de la rencontre entre des compositions incompatibles qui trouvent de manière virale la capacité d'entrer en contact, perforant toute enceinte, la plus radicale, la plus stérile. Même le feu n'y pourra rien, ni aucun acide. Il me semble que c'est l'auteur d'une logique vitaliste qui poursuit le rapport conflictuel du vivant dans l'œuvre de Hegel. C'est la vie qui se survit par tous les moyens et engage des sacrifices au nom même de l'amour pour ce qui nous détruit. La manière dont Derrida conçoit l'hospitalité n'est pas loin de cette vision extrêmement tourmentée concernant un monde inhabitable.
Il y en aurait d'autres, mais pour finir cette petite liste, je pense à un auteur qui, comme tu le sais, m'intéresse aussi, même si ce n'est pas exactement de la SF, mais c'est un auteur dont tu parles, et qui est Lovecraft.
Je crois que Lovecraft est déjà entré dans le mythe. Il est l'auteur d'une nouvelle mythologie qui pourrait rivaliser avec les Grecs et s'inscrire comme à revers dans La philosophie de la mythologie de Schelling. Il est de toute façon déjà entré dans nos rêves. Ton livre récent autour de lui en est le signe et vient acter la force de contagion du mythe. Pour le reste, il hante mes propres rêves, comme si on n'était jamais soi-même l'auteur de ce qu'on rêve, le sujet du rêve, mais qu'on tombait dedans, qu'on allait y chercher des images qui ne sont pas de nous. Et c'est d'ailleurs ce thème du rêve qui est venu agiter mes propres nuits, notamment dans Enfer de la philosophie à propos du rêve de Lovecraft que j'ai rêvé à mon tour, sous le nom de Windgate qui, dans L'abîme du temps, procède à une fouille archéologique et retrouve les traces de ce qu'il avait visionné dans ses souvenirs oniriques, venus d'un autre temps, antédiluviens pour ainsi dire. On retrouve des motifs de ce genre dans la SF qui développe souvent le thème de l'archéologie extra-terrestre, un genre assez réussi que j'ai effleuré autour du roman de Jack McDevitt, Les machines de Dieu.
Si je reviens à ce que je disais tout à l'heure, à savoir qu'il me semble que, de manière centrale, ce qui t'intéresse c'est une logique de la différence avec toutes les implications qu'elle entraîne, ce qui me frappe dans ta démarche est que ton travail en général repose toujours, presque toujours, sur une pensée qui est associée, qui se développe en association avec d'autres, qui avance à l'intérieur d'agencements que tu inventes pour chacun de tes livres : l'agencement Borges, l'agencement Deleuze, l'agencement Derrida, Foucault, l'agencement van Gogh, l'agencement SF, etc. Et bien sûr l'agencement Hegel. Ceci correspondrait à ce qui est central chez Hegel, à savoir l'idée que ce qui est ne se développe qu'en rapport avec autre chose qu'il n'est pas, ou encore à l'idée de rencontre ou d'agencement chez Deleuze.  Bien sûr, même si les choses ne prennent pas nécessairement chez d'autres la forme qu'elles prennent dans ton cas, il me semble que l'on crée toujours dans un rapport à autre chose que soi, en incluant l'autre en soi, ce qui fait de la création littéraire ou philosophique essentiellement un devenir. Pourquoi es-tu attaché à construire et exhiber de tels agencements ? Est-ce que tu ne penses pas possible, ou souhaitable, pour ton compte de faire un livre où ta philosophie s'exposerait de manière plus directe, comme une sorte d'Ethique ou d'Encyclopédie ?
Disons que le rapport direct, je n'y crois plus du tout. Schopenhauer ne fait rien d'autre que de commenter Kant, Kierkegaard pense sans cesse à Hegel, Deleuze est dans Spinoza même au moment de Mille Plateaux. Les auteurs dont je me méfie le plus sont ceux qui s'approprient tout ce qu'ils n'ont jamais fait comme s'ils venaient de le découvrir sous leur plume, ceux qui inondent nos présentoirs et qui compulsent sans le dire tout ce que d'autres ont mis beaucoup de temps à réunir. C'est en tout cas de manière artificielle qu'un auteur croit parler en son nom propre. Un art d'effacer les références et de lustrer le tableau pour se débarrasser de la trace de l'autre. Moi, la trace, l'empreinte, c'est ma méthode. Je fais une philosophie indirecte mais qui prend un style extrêmement direct et percutant par la formule violente et l'écriture inspirée. Du moins très travaillée. La trace d'un autre, l'archi-trace, l'impossibilité de se poser en soi, c'est vraiment ce qui m'intéresse en philosophie. C'est mon exigence vitale disons. Et cette exigence est aussi l'occasion d'un livre « central » qui est une espèce d'évolution créatrice du visible : Le corps de l'empreinte, publié chez Kimé. J'ai écrit ce livre, très important dans mon parcours, bien avant d'avoir lu Derrida, et Derrida est une rencontre qui s'est imposée à partir de ce texte étrange, livre double également puisque François Rouan l'a illustré, lui qui se fait mon complice et me fera rencontrer indirectement Derrida. Alors, la mode qui consiste à parler de soi-même est finalement le genre le plus commun, qui impose violemment une opinion personnelle comme vérité : « je tiens que », « il me paraît crucial », « le nouage que je suis », « ma thèse », etc. Tout cela n'a évidemment aucun intérêt. Fuyons dès que quelqu'un se prend pour un original à ratisser l'adhésion de quelque disciple. Étonnant que de tels livres soient publiés.
Donc oui, j'adore monter des parcours qui vont chercher quelque part un autre et à commencer en moi-même : un précurseur à inventer pour me dépersonnaliser d'abord et le dépersonnaliser en retour. C'est Le cycle du non A parcouru par ma propre ligne de vie. C'est vrai que plus jeune on rêve mal. J'ai rêvé d'écrire une éthique pour assoir un territoire. J'ai fini par écrire une logique qui entre dans l'archive de la SF. Et, dans cette archive, il y a évidemment d'autres textes antérieurs qui grondent, par exemple L'image virtuelle, un de mes premiers livres encore trop personnel mais pourtant efficace dans son genre. Et puis tout finit en enfer comme un autre de mes livres en endosse le risque : Enfer de la philosophie, ou encore, pourquoi pas, Le mal et autres passions obscuresqui fait de tout voyage le geste d'une transgression. Je ne sais donc pas de quoi la suite sera faite, et puis plus durement, je ne sais pas de quoi sont faits mes deux romans publiés par Léo Scheer… Y en aura-t-il un troisième ? Comment continuer ? Je crois qu'il y aura un second livre sur la SF qui n'est pas une suite mais qui oscillera entre « logique et surexistence », sans doute plus encore dans le cinéma. Le hasard est souverain me semble-t-il dans ce genre de parcours. Il est le hoquet ou le prodrome de la nécessité.
Entretien réalisé par Jean-Philippe Cazier publié d'abord dans la revue Diacritik


Friday, December 22, 2017

Nietzsche as Social Critic: “Twilight of the Idols” (Part Two) (Partially Examined Life podcast)

Part Two of this episode now available. Description below.

Episode 178: Nietzsche as Social Critic: "Twilight of the Idols" (Part Two)

Friedrich Niezsche

Continuing on Nietzsche's 1888 book. Is there any ground from which we could judge life as a whole to be good or bad? Is N. more about saying "yes" to life or saying "no" to all the numerous things that piss him off? We also talk Becoming, whether producing great art is more important than being nice to everyone, and whether Nietzsche is ultimately someone we'd want to hang around.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Some books I am reading for research over break (with NDPR links)

Abstracts and links to the NDPR reviews below. I have to say that all of these books are quite good and proving useful so far.

Nicholas F. Stang, Kant's Modal Metaphysics, Oxford University Press, 2016, 352pp., $74.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198712626.

Reviewed by Andrew Chignell, University of Pennsylvania

The dust jacket of this book features anatomical drawings of a narwhal and a unicorn. They are Kant's own examples: he says that we can't tell just by looking at the drawings (or considering our concepts) which of these animals actually exists. We have to go and investigate. But are we able to tell, just by considering our concepts, whether narwahls or unicorns are at least possible?

A "logicist," in Nicholas Stang's terminology, says yes: whether or not something is possible is entirely a function of the logical relations between the predicates contained in its concept. So if the concept contains a (hidden or explicit) contradiction, then unicorns are impossible. Conversely, if there is no contradiction...  

More HERE.

Allen W. Wood, Fichte's Ethical Thought, Oxford University Press, 2016, 321 pp., $60.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198766889.

Reviewed by Michael Baur, Fordham University

This is the third of three books Allen Wood has written on ethical thought in the tradition of German Idealism. The other two -- Hegel's Ethical Thought (1990) and Kant's Ethical Thought (1999) -- focus on two thinkers often understood to represent the starting-point and the ending-point of German Idealism. Wood's aim in this third book is to show that Fichte is not just one more philosopher among others in a neatly-defined tradition known as German Idealism, and, more emphatically, that Fichte's thought cannot be adequately understood if it is characterized merely as a way station on a philosophical path that leads more-or-less directly from Kant to Hegel. By the end, Wood has told us enough to make genuinely serious...

More HERE.

David James and Günter Zöller (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Fichte, Cambridge University Press, 2016, 419 pp., $110.00 (hbk.), ISBN 9780521472265.

Reviewed by Angelica Nuzzo, Graduate Center, City University of New York

As in all "companion" volumes -- a genre that has become increasingly popular in recent years -- this book offers an overarching account of Johann Gottlieb Fichte's philosophy that addresses the historical context, the main systematic issues, and the different disciplinary fields of his thought, and also gives an overview of its successive reception (from the contemporary debate in Fichte's own time to today's reception in the philosophy of mind). Such an overarching account is particularly important and useful in the case of a philosopher who never published an organized "system," as his contemporary Hegel did, or whose philosophy does not seem to have followed a clearly outlined progressive development, such as Kant's critical thought. In addition, given the historical position that Fichte occupies...

More HERE.

Frederick C. Beiser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2008, 518pp., $32.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780521539388.

Reviewed by Robert M. Wallace,

Fred Beiser has edited a successor volume to the original Cambridge Companion to Hegel (1993). The contributions are all brand new, and many of them explore areas in Hegel that were treated poorly or not at all in the original Companion, including Hegel's philosophy of religion, his philosophy of nature (the subject of three first-rate essays here), his aesthetics (two essays), and his relation to hermeneutics and to mysticism. The title is quite misleading; the book deals only with Hegel and his immediate predecessors and contemporaries. As with many Cambridge Companions, the book isn't really designed for beginners. For students who have some relevant background, and for scholars, the book is a very high quality collection covering quite a lot of what a comprehensive volume on Hegel should cover. It omits only a couple of what I take to be key topics, which I'll touch on below.

More HERE.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Plato's Timaeus (SEP entry revised)

A long-term goal of mine has been to discover what value might be found in the Timaeus for ecological and environmental philosophy. The German idealist Schelling provides readers of the Timaeus with some clues in his own reading of the dialogue as Schelling's commentary is another highly recommended piece of what Whitehead had called "the philosophy of organism." The below linked SEP entry has been immensely helpful in deciphering possible leads.

Plato's Timaeus
// Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

In the Timaeus Plato presents an elaborately wrought account of the formation of the universe and an explanation of its impressive order and beauty. The universe, he proposes, is the product of rational, purposive, and beneficent agency. It is the handiwork of a divine Craftsman ("Demiurge," demiourgos, 28a6) who, imitating an unchanging and eternal model, imposes mathematical order on a preexistent chaos to generate the ordered universe (kosmos). 

Eikoh Hosoe's photobook about Yukio Mishima: 薔薇刑 (Killed by Roses, 1963)

Monoskop has put up Hosoe's photobook covering Yukio Mishima, HERE. In both English and Japanese, the book features Mishima's aesthetics of "sun and steel." Only Ernst Juenger was ever able to achieve such a similar, "shimmering" aesthetic. Both are magical realists, sentionautic phenomenologists and psychonauts, world-reknown literaturs - among the few and the rare who lived reality to its edges and saw beyond.

For more about Mishima see the After Nature posts:

"Mishima's the Rite of Love and Death" (a very romantic piece, do watch it! One of my favorite films of all time.)

"On Ernst Junger and Yukio Mishima" (Better than Food Book Reviews, also with many links inside the post)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

No Wave: Post-Punk, Underground, New York, 1976-1980

Preoccupations (credit: Preoccupations / bandcamp)

Monoskop always posting the goodies. The description reads:

A visual chronicle of the collision of art and punk in the New York underground of 1976 to 1980. This look at punk rock, new wave, experimental music, and the avant-garde art movement of the 1970s and 1980s focuses on the architects of No Wave from James Chance to Lydia Lunch to Glenn Branca, as well as the luminaries that intersected the scene, such as David Byrne, Debbie Harry, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, and Richard Hell. 
This rarely documented scene was the creative stomping ground of young artists and filmmakers from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Jim Jarmusch as well as the musical genesis for the post-punk explosions of Sonic Youth. Thurston Moore and Byron Coley have selected 150 images and compiled personal interviews to create an oral history of the movement.
Their link: HERE.

While we're on the subject, how 'bout some Preoccupations? Described by Pitchfork magazine as, "Crooning post-punk vocals, distant-sounding harmonies à la Nuggets-era psychedelia, noise-addled punk, and Blade Runner-style instrumentals".

Videos below, bandcamp HERE.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Bleak Theory

"In the beginning there was nothing and it has been getting steadily worse ever since." 

By way of Three Pound Brain, Paul Ennis gives us "Bleak Theory." Post HERE with excerpts below. Do read the whole thing if you get a chance. This was published back in October and I've only now just gotten around to carefully reading it and posting here at After Nature. Again, below are excerpts only.
I cannot hope to satisfy anyone with a definition of aesthetic experience, but let me wager that those moments that let me identify with the world a-subjectively – but not objectively – are commonly associated in my mind with bleakness. My brain chemistry, my environment, and similar contingent influences have rendered me this way. So be it. Bleakness manifests most often when I am faced with what is most distinctly impersonal: with cloudscapes and dimmed, wet treescapes. Or better yet, any time I witness a stark material disfiguration of the real by our species. And flowering from this is a bleak outlook correlated with the immense, consistent, and mostly hidden, suffering that is our history – our being. The intensity arising from the global reach of suffering becomes impressive when dislocated from the personal and the particular because then you realize that it belongs to us. Whatever the instigator the result is the same: I am alerted not just to the depths of unknowing that I embody, to the fact that I will never know most of life, but also to the industrial-scale sorrow consistently operative in being. All that is, is a misstep away from ruin...  
Today there are projects that explicitly register all this, and nonetheless intend to operate in line with the potentiality contained within the capacities of reason. What differentiates these projects, oftentimes rationalist in nature, is that they do not follow our various universalist legacies in simply conceiving of the general human as deserving of dignity simply because we all belong to the same class of suffering beings. This is not sufficient to make humans act well. The phenomenon of suffering is easily recognizable and most humans are acutely aware of it, and yet they continue to act in ways contrary to how we ‘ought’ to respond. In fact, it is clear that knowing the sheer scale of suffering may lead to hedonism, egoism or repression... [...]
One might suggest that we need only a minimal condition to be ethical. An appeal to the reality of pain in sentient and sapient creatures, perhaps. In that decision you might find solace – despite everything (or in spite of everything). It is a choice, however. Our attempts to assert an ethical universalism are bound up with a counter-logic: the bleak truth of contingency on the basis of the impersonal-in-the-personal. It is a logic quietly operative in the philosophical tradition and one I believe has been suppressed. Self-suppressed it flirts too much with a line leading us to the truth of our hallucination. It’s Nietzsche telling you about perspectivism hinging on the impersonal will-to-power and then you maturing, and forgetting...  
Speaking of sales, all kinds of new realism are being hawked on the various para-academic street-corners. All of them benefit from a tint of recognizability rooted, I would suggest, in the fact that ontological realism has always been hidden in plain sight; for any continentalist willing to look. What is different today is how the question of the impersonal attachments affecting the human comes not from inside philosophy, but from a number of external pressures. In what can only be described as a tragic situation for metaphysicians, truth now seeps into the discipline from the outside. We see thinking these days where philosophers promised there was none. The brilliance of continental realism lies in reminding us how this is an immense opportunity for philosophers to wake up from various self-induced slumbers, even if that means stepping outside the protected circle from time to time. It involves bringing this bubbling, left-over question of ontological realism right to the fore. This does not mean ontological realism will come to be accepted and then casually integrated into the tradition. If anything the backlash may eviscerate it, but the attempt will have been made. Or was, and quietly passed...  
Some need hope, no? As I write this I feel the beautiful soul rising from his armchair, but I do not want to hear it. Bleak theory is addressed to your situation: a first worlder inhabiting an accelerated malaise. The ethics to address poverty, inequality, and hardship will be different. Our own heads are disordered and we do not quite know how to respond to the field outside it. You will feel guilty for your myopia, and you deserve it, but you cannot elide by endlessly pointing to the plank in the other’s eye. You can pray through your tears, and in doing so ironically demonstrate the disturbance left by the death of God, but what does this shore up? It builds upon cathedral ruins: those sites where being is doubled-up and bent-over-backwards trying to look inconspicuous as just another option. Do you want to write religion back into being? Why not, as Ayache suggests, just ruin yourself? I hope it is clear I don’t have any answers: all clarity is a lie these days. I can only offer bleak theory as a way of seeing and perhaps a way of operating. It ‘works’ as follows: begin with confusion and shear away at what you can. Whatever is left is likely the closest thing approximating to what we name truth. It will be strictly negative. Elimination of errors is the best you can hope for... 
I don’t know how to end this, so I am just going to end it.
For those interested, After Nature blog has the following posts below which speak to many themes in the above article. To sum though, I think Nick Land said it best when he wrote that the "God or Nature" decision is a decision of equivalence, as there is only one law that all must obey, and in fact, Gnon has no other supreme principle. One law, and one only: "Reality Rules."

See After Nature posts (linked):

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Cosmic accelerationism

"As the bubble expands forever, the volume of this universe would increase without limit..."

Aeon has an article up HERE covering accelerating cosmic expansion and "bubble" universes, multiverses, and so on. Essentially the article points to how not only philosophically but cosmologically accelerationism as applied to the cosmos is true. From the article:
By taking careful measurements of supernovae and other indicators, cosmologists can now plot the expansion rate of the Universe accurately as a function of time and, using Einstein’s equations of general relativity, determine the value of the vacuum energy. The latest measurement is that it is 7 x 10-30 grammes per cubic centimetre. We can also determine the ratio of the pressure to the energy density in dark energy today...
That ratio indicates how dark energy changes over time, and how the Universe changes with it... 
As far as we know, this doubling could go on forever. Distant galaxies will flee from us because of the stretching of space between us and them. After a sufficient number of doublings, the space between them and us will be stretching so fast that their light will no longer be able to cross this ever-widening gap to reach us. Distant galaxies will fade from view and we will find ourselves seemingly alone in the visible Universe....Vacuum energy is not just a recipe for cosmic loneliness. It could also be an agent of change, destruction and rebirth. The value of vacuum energy depends on the values of different fields permeating empty space.... 
Life would be hard inside the bubble, too. Within these bubbles, vacuum energy is large and negative, with a large positive pressure. Because pressure dominates, there is an overall strong gravitational attraction, which has a crushing effect. Any object like Earth that you might imagine forming inside the bubble would be squashed quickly, due to the big overall gravitational attraction of the negative vacuum energy. 
If a bubble formed inside the 28-billion-light-year radius, we would die as surely as that fly on the windshield.
My question would be, does cosmic acceleration tend toward Being with zero degree, as in, the cosmos "ends" both in terms of space and time by way of death-by-generality - a "flat line" of true cosmic darkness Absolute? Or, given that same acceleration, does some sort of pluralistic mutiplication of particulars occur where intelligence multi-proliferates into innumerable intelligences, proliferations, and particulars such that the speed of generalization equals infinity and any form of "zero degree" and emptiness would be impossible?

The History channel used to have quite a few "end of the universe" episodes up on YouTube which put into layterms alof of these scenarios. Sadly though they've been removed for what I imagine to be copyright issues. Still, if you can find one they are always worth watching.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book about extraterrestrials and religious belief, and article "Humans Would Be Cool with Finding Aliens" ( article)

A new study, one of very few of its kind, finds that people typically respond quite positively to the notion of life on other planets. The study investigated the possibility of finding microbial extraterrestrials, not intelligent E.T.s, so people's responses might be a little different if they were told an armada of aliens were headed toward Earth, cautioned study author Michael Varnum, a psychologist at Arizona State University. Nevertheless, he noted, large portions of people believe that intelligent aliens do exist and that they've visited Earth; so even a more dramatic announcement might not ruffle feathers. 
"What this suggests is, there's no reason to be afraid" of sharing news of astrobiology with the public, Varnum told Live Science. "We won't collapse. We're not going to have chaos in the streets."
Link to the full article HERE.

Also of interest particular to those who read about the possibility of extraterrestrial life's implications for religious belief might be THIS book, Vast Universe: Extraterrestrials and Christian Revelation. Glancing at the table of contents and introduction I was led to believe that the topic is covered rather intelligently and makes a good case for the compatibility of religious belief with the potential discovery of extraterrestrial life. The language, or terms such as "star people" and "star friends" sounds very Kantian and cosmic-cosmopolitan in nature and is a huge bonus for me.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Plant Minds: A Philosophical Defense (NDPR review)

Plant Minds: A Philosophical Defense
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Chauncey Maher, Plant Minds: A Philosophical Defense, Routledge, 2017, 131 pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138739192.
Reviewed by Colin Allen, University of Pittsburgh

What do you know about plants? You might not be surprised to hear that plants account for much more of the planet's biomass than animals -- hundreds of times more, in some estimates. You may, however, be surprised to learn that the number of plant species is relatively small compared to the number of animal species. It is an interesting question why plants have not diversified as much as animals have, but perhaps their immobility accounts for it. Nevertheless, with somewhere in the range of 300,000 to 400,000 species (estimates vary widely), there is plenty enough diversity among plants to yield some very interesting adaptations, from communication to carnivory.

Read More

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Legacy of Kant in Sellars and Meillassoux: Analytic and Continental Kantianism

For those interested, the book The Legacy of Kant in Sellars and Meillassoux: Analytic and Continental Kantianism, while perhaps being abit limited to specialists in some fairly narrow fields within philosophy, nevertheless does seem to have quite a few interesting avenues of query available for those with a broader interest in the history of philosophy.

I do not own this book but say as much from previewing what I could from it and by inferring that the book is the result of THIS conference (do check out their website). I'll copy below the table of contents and insert a link to the publishers website. But this would certainly be a book I'd love to review, if not to see what contemporary philosophy is doing with Kant and Sellars, and road of development which has as far as I can tell produced some very interesting in-roads and results.

Chapters include:

"After Kant, Sellars, and Meillassoux: Back to Empirical Realism?" by James R. O’Shea
"Sellars and Meillassoux: a Most Unlikely Encounter" by Aude Bandini
"Correlation, Speculation, and the Modal Kant-Sellars Thesis" by Ray Brassier
"Speculative Materialism or Pragmatic Naturalism?: Sellars contra Meillassoux" by Carl B. Sachs
"How to Know that we Know? The contemporary Post-Kantian problem of a priori synthetic judgments" by Anna Longo
"Toward the Thing-in Itself: Sellars’ and Meillassoux’s Divergent Conception of Kantian Transcendentalism" by Dionysis Christias
"A Plea for Narcissus. On the Transcendental Reflexion /\ Refraction Mediation Tandem" by Gabriel Catren
"Speculating the Real: On Quentin Meillassoux’s Philosophical Realism" by Joseph Cohen
"‘It is not until we have eaten the apple’: Forestalling the Necessity of Contingency" by Muhannad Hariri
"Puncturing the Circle of Correlation: Rationalism, Materialism, and Dialectics" by Daniel Sacilotto

Link to publisher's site HERE. Description below:
Contemporary interest in realism and naturalism, emerging under the banner of speculative or new realism, has prompted continentally-trained philosophers to consider a number of texts from the canon of analytic philosophy. The philosophy of Wilfrid Sellars, in particular, has proven remarkably able to offer a contemporary re-formulation of traditional "continental" concerns that is amenable to realist and rationalist considerations, and serves as an accessible entry point into the Anglo-American tradition for continental philosophers. With the aim of appraising this fertile theoretical convergence, this volume brings together experts of both analytic and continental philosophy to discuss the legacy of Kantianism in contemporary philosophy. The individual essays explore the ways in which Sellars can be put into dialogue with the widely influential work of Quentin Meillassoux, explaining how—even though their methods, language, and proximal influences are widely different—their philosophical stances can be compared thanks to their shared Kantian heritage and interest in the problem of realism. This book will be appeal to students and scholars who are interested in Sellars, Meillassoux, contemporary realist movements in continental philosophy, and the analytic-continental debate in contemporary philosophy.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Involvement of the brain in the experience of chronic pain

At several points the article comes close to "blaming" the patient insofar as there now has been shown to be a direct contribution by the brain (rather than a mere reaction by the body) in the experience of pain. This is nothing new though, but I fear the fact that cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to "affect" changes in the brain (although studies have not conclusively shown this nor have studies shown that the affect is experienced as a reduction in the perception of pain) may be used as further excuse to place pain almost exclusively in the category of "mere perception." Naturally, then, the experience of pain is said to be the patient's fault because only the patient would be unwilling (or unable) to change that perception of pain.  Terms such as "guarding," "pain catastrophizing," and "fear avoidant behavior" make their appearances in tandem with stating explicitly that "over sensitization" in the perception of pain is physiologically explained by genetics, and implicitly stating that cognitive behavioral therapy alone is an appropriate form of treatment in cases of severe chronic pain (because afterall, pain is "all in the head anyway"). Making matters worse, this new line of thinking follows upon the United State's current hysterics over opioids and considering what positive role opioids might play when appropriately included in a regimen that would actually treat pain, rather than just explain its perception - for the research cited suggests that simply stating pain is mostly a subjective perception is enough to serve as some form of treatment of it (i.e. explanation of pain somehow equals treatment). This puts pain patients at even more of a disadvantage in getting the help they need, moreso than ever before.

Link HERE.

Friday, December 8, 2017

What professional responsibility comes with being an editor-in-chief?

Bill Benzon at New Savannah posted some time back a blog post, "Is formal peer-review really useful anymore?", HERE. The post highlights formal peer-review versus "review by peers" (a much less formal if not completely informal and speedy form of review), and the question as to what purpose review by peers might serve as a "weeding out" mechanism of sorts.

Citing Timothy Gowers of TLS, the post mentions how review by peers before formal peer-review can establish "reliability" in addition to "weeding out the chaff" and "providing feedback to authors." These in the name of determining what scholarship is more valuable than other scholarship and justifying "quick judgments" regarding authors' ideas in certain journals versus others. I should note Benzon's own position here is rather neutral and so I am addressing Gowers moreso than I am Benzon, despite Benzon's post where I initially encountered this thought.

My own perspective is that when it comes to open access journals especially, in the name of the democratization of knowledge formal peer-review instead of review by peers would be the preferred route of review. That is, much like Rawls' veil of ignorance in his theory of justice, blind peer-review (the formal component of it) pretty much eliminates the worst of what inevitably occurs with the worst of review by peers. While there is still the chance of nepotism and the channeling of a journal or book series into ideological organ based upon content, at least authorship is depersonalized and the quality of content, i.e. scholarship, becomes focus. I say this because from my experience political agendas and gate-keeping has come into play on more than one occasion. But I'll come back to that in a moment.

As THIS article points out, titled rather succinctly "Many academics are eager to publish in worthless journals," many open access journals out of desperation abandon formal peer-review in favor of review by peers not to ensure expediency in decision-making, not to better categorize papers as either fitting the journal's theme versus not, nor even to "weed out the chaff" and separate quality scholarship from the rest; but rather to continue an ideological agenda, push or return favors, or simply maintain someone's "spot" (and the corresponding pecking order of their acolytes). This all in the name of weeding out the chaff, which results to not much more than empty gesturing. All too often those whom the editors simply dislike or have decided to blackball from their small neck of the woods (usually some highly specific corner of field x in the philosophy of y) are cut out despite the quality of their scholarship. Had formal review been in place the editors would have been forced to confront their own prejudice and that prejudice at least become visible to others involved in the process, but that hardly ever occurs. It is no surprise that given the review by peers landscape is advantageous to those who happen to have grabbed the vetting power, it is often the preferred form of review in cases where charlatanism and cronyism are rampant anyhow. In short, review by peers over any formal sort of review is a sure-fire way to establish and then secure someone's level of importance or influence beyond what it would be in reality had some other process been going on, or in some cases it even allows philosophers to continue on in a game of charlatanism and dupe others into believing that x "make believe" philosophy exists when in fact it doesn't (again, speculative realism is an excellent case in point).

Returning to speculative realism for a moment, as my post concerning the Edinburgh University Press Speculative Realism Series from several weeks ago HERE has indicated (a post which netted around 750+ views as expected), it appears that the problems concerning a lack of objectivity and professionalism extend far and beyond what many might even realize. My experience was not with Edinburgh but rather Open Humanities Press (a different series within Open Humanities mind you, as I published with OHP anyway but decided to work with another editor who I found to be eminently more professional and actually, you know, fair in their decision-making). However, as I stated in that post, the editor whom I initially was going to contact at OHP wouldn't even agree to receive a manuscript proposal simply because I was the person who wrote it! This without really even knowing me personally, without ever even having spoken to me. So if that's not review by peers rather than formal peer-review I don't know what is. Fantastic to believe, I know. But it is true. Yes, this particular OHP editor refused to read a book proposal before it was ever sent to them, before this person even knew what it was about, before they ever even knew a title, a length, a subject, etc.  Based strictly on my name and the fact they did not like me for whatever reason, and nothing else. Not the level of my scholarship, not my talent, not the quality of my work - but upon what amounted to gossip and hearsay, second-rate information that they "heard" and formed an opinion of me which had no basis in reality and turned out to be false anyway. So, obviously that's a huge problem if that editor, whose job it is to be a consummate professional and behave as much, especially if someone is made editor of a series that has even an iota of pretense to be willing to look at submissions from anyone (even critical submissions - yeah right), or any pretense at all to having a fair or objective review process that would give them or their series credibility. That's what is lost with so-called review by peers. (Needless to say, many years later as this person went on to become the editor for other book series/journals one has to question: how can their judgment be trusted now? Afterall, clearly decisions weren't being made in virtue of the quality of work but rather someone's identity alone. What reason would one to think that that has changed? Further, what does this say about the work that they have agreed to edit? Was it because of that work's quality rather than political ties? We'll never know.)

To sum, Brian Leiter's post (mentioned in mine earlier) references an open access journal Open Philosophy that explicitly claims it does not tow party lines or push specific political agendas, however that is the sort of wait-and-see claim which I suspect will result in disappointment, much like the case of the Edinburgh University Press Speculative Realism series has or PhilPapers and its editorialship has (again, the Speculative Realism series at PhilPapers has had its fair share of specific authors' work going missing or just never even being acknowledged as a submission, supposedly due to "technical errors" - how convenient! And to think, a book whose title is Speculative Realism: An Epitome is nowhere to be found in PhilPapers given that "Speculative Realism" is a category and the book has that same title. Now that omission is really convenient, wouldn't you say?).

But, you get the idea. My point here isn't that I have some axe to grind or am upset that my own work has been subjected to such silliness. Given that I would end up publishing the book anyway and that it has since been acknowledged and reviewed (quite positively in many cases) by those in that particular area of study, as well as is said to be one of the more objective (as is possible) commentaries on the topic, which is a rarity, I wouldn't be complaining about my situation personally or about any one editor, series, or person individually. My point simply is to address how dangerous and fallible a "review by peers" process can be and that more often than not its intention of providing expediency while at the same time maintaining fairness is more or less, a pipe dream. I have gone at lengths to support this claim with my own experience regarding the situation, that's all. But it is a situation which is much too common.

There is much, way too much, peer review that isn't much more than cronyism, and it needs to stop. One needn't look much further than speculative realism and its world of publishing as a good case in point. But obviously given the fallible nature of the process itself, given human nature, it occurs most times where formal peer review isn't taking place. And that is something which I believe needs to change.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

End of the World As We Know It: What's the Draw of Dystopian Sci-Fi? (article)

LiveScience online magazine with a very nice article HERE. What stood out to me in particular was how science fiction enables one to speculatively imagine a future which isn't as bright as many suppose technological science would deliver us unto. The best of science fiction, I think at least, allows one to feel as if the future in question is right around the corner, even if five minutes away.

Science fiction inevitably is a speculative-imaginative philosophical enterprise allowing human beings to not only consider what French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux has titled "the great outdoors," but to partake in a radical form of deanthropocentric and bleak ecological transcendence by imagining what twentieth century process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead referred to as other cosmic epochs being possible, including futures without the human.

For some H.P. Lovecraft accomplishes this with his use of the horror genre and correspondingly his "cosmic pessimism." I, however, do not find Lovecraft so potent. I find that science fiction, not horror, is the truly more philosophical literature of the two.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead's Radical Empiricism (NDPR review)

This is refreshing considering the amount of questionable Whitehead scholarship published as of late. Auxier teaches process philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is a trusted source on the topic.

The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead's Radical Empiricism
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

2017.12.03 : View this Review Online

Randall E. Auxier and Gary L. Herstein, The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead's Radical Empiricism, Routledge, 2017, 370pp., $150.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138700161.
Reviewed by George Lucas, U.S. Naval Academy

This is an insightful and provocative account of Whitehead's metaphysics by two gifted and determined scholars. It centers on the claim that the key concept in that metaphysical system, the "actual entity" or "actual occasion" (res vera), is an explanatory, illustrative, or heuristic concept (as the so-called "Bohr atom" serves in physics, for example), and decidedly neither a "Ding-an-sich" nor a descriptive account of what "actuality" is actually composed of.

Instead, the authors identify Whitehead's technically challenging metaphysics as his effort to understand "the quantum of explanation" rather than to disclose some fundamental quantum of Being itself. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nietzsche as Social Critic: “Twilight of the Idols” (Part One) (Partially Examined Life podcast)

Partially Examined Life podcast put out another rather interesting episode on Nietzsche. I believe there are at least two other Nietzsche episodes in their several years-long history, each worth listening to.

Episode 178: Nietzsche as Social Critic: "Twilight of the Idols" (Part One)
// The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast

On Friedrich Nieztsche's 1888 book summarizing his thought and critiquing the founding myths of his society. He defends "spiritualized" instinct and frenzied creativity, but also Napoleon and war. We try to figure out what kind of social critic he'd be today. Would we actually like him?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

J.G. Ballard's contribution to post-punk and new wave

"Punk" aesthetics has had its share of predecessors, but just as important is punk aesthetics' impact upon, and subsequent genre development of, "punk rock" as musical genre (what "punk" is usually most associated with). The close association between cultural phenomenon and musical genre places punk near other counter-culture movements, whether the motorcycle and hot-rod gangs of the 1940's and 1950's listening to doo-wop (i.e. the "rockers" and the "greasers"), the beat generation in America with its jazz, the sun children and "hippies" of the '60s and folk rock, and folk rock becoming the psychedelic (and loud) garage bands that transformed into "heavy metal" during the late '70s and early '80s. Even "alternative" music - made popular among young people due to college radio airplay during the early '90s - was an "alternative" to the main stream and has influenced what today is called "indie music."  In current times as genres are unnecessarily multiplied I find consolation that the do-it-yourself, edgy and aggressive, throw-the-system culture of punk rock has transformed for the better and evolved the way it has while retaining its core aesthetic elements. During the years of (roughly) 1977 through 1983 or '84 punk transformed into something that so many young people today are trying to re-create. Namely, punk became post-punk and new wave. As that transformation took place however, none of punk's edginess or aggressive aesthetic was lost. How did such a transformation occur, and what might we learn from it?

"Post punk," the natural outgrowth of punk that picked up where other alternative and edgy anti-social genres took off (not only music but youth culture more generally), had the identity it did because of a brand new musical invention: the synthesizer.  While the electric guitar took rock 'n roll to an entirely new level in garage bands and then metal, the synth took punk into post-punk and new wave - elevating and developing the original punk aesthetic into something even more dark, edgy, and untimely. Unlike today when counter-cultural genres meet popular or new technologies and dilute as a result, post-punk and new wave retained its distinct "dark" and post-apocalyptic vibe nevertheless. With the invention of the synthesizer and its eventual low cost price point, and the fact that quite simply just more people were incorporating synthesizer into that genre of music, one would expect post-punk to be a former shell of punk rock, especially when it came to its dark and edgy aesthetic and its "underground" and "independent" nature of composition. So how did post-punk and new wave do it? How did they retain that core "punk" aesthetic element? Well, as I found out in the fantastic documentary which I embed below, musicians during those years weren't just playing the synthesizer. They were all reading plenty of J.G. Ballard. Allow me to explain...

Punk rock's transformation into post-punk and new wave just wasn't a matter of brand new musical instrument and whose hands happened to be on it; it was, rather, a matter of there being twin core aesthetic influences affecting and even driving that transformation. Therefore, the transformation of punk into post-punk and new wave was due just as much to new literary/film/cultural genre (including "cyber punk," dystopian or post-apocalyptic science fiction - again, whether literature or film ) as it was to new musical instrument. The relatively new genre of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, of dark futurism, of cosmic pessimism, helped post-punk and new wave keep in view what punk rock could have easily lost: speculating a darker and and more "bleak" future to come. And, that future? It wasn't to be seen five hundred years from then, nor even a hundred. It could very well be five minutes from then. The apocalyptic future was immanent. Ballard, but also Kubrick, and others like them, created speculative futures which could very well be seen as occurring the day after tomorrow for those who encountered them. They were futures which were all the more probable, and this made them all the more terrifying. For as fictional as they were, these were realist speculative futures.

Definitely worth watching, Synth Britannia charts the course of post-punk and new wave circa 1977 through 1984. (For those unable to watch, THIS write-up in the Observer would be almost just as good.) And as we see, J.G. Ballard, Kubrick's 1971 masterpiece Clockwork Orange, and other dark, edgy, and bleak iconic aesthetic cultural treasures had their share fair of influence on the genre of music that, to my mind, represents Generation-X's sensibilities more than any other. Interestingly, if I might add, Gen-X philosophers still read Ballard today (and many, including me, still listen to post-punk and new wave, whether the originals or the "new retro-wave" of today).

My understanding is that the electronics of new wave that transformed into experimental dance music and electronic avante-garde are what influenced CCRU and friends such as Nick Land and Sadie Plant. Philosophers such as Ray Brassier have written about Ballard (and also participated in improvisational music scenarios), and perhaps even more generally speaking, many Gen-X philosophers are tremendously influenced by "cyber punk," post-punk and new wave's corresponding literary genre.

Ballard makes appearances mostly in the first half of the documentary.