Nick Land – An Experiment in Inhumanism

A former student of philosopher — or perhaps “ex-philosopher? — Nick Land writes about the man’s work on the occasion of the publication of a collection of his writings:

Before I met Land, I already knew of him through the gossip of new undergraduates taken aback by what they had heard on the grapevine: Did Land really claim that he had come back from the dead? Did he really think he was an android sent from the future to terminate human security? In person he belied these outrageous claims (both of which he did indeed make in writing), being thoroughly polite and amiable and, above all, willing to engage in earnest conversation with anyone. He had paid his philosophical dues and could hold his own in a discussion with any professor; these discussions often turning vituperative, however, as Land railed against the institution and its conservatism. But he preferred to spend his time in the bar with undergraduates, always buying the drinks, smoking continually, and conversing animatedly (and where possible, vehemently) about any topic whatsoever.

Land was perhaps not the greatest teacher from the point of view of obtaining a sober and solid grounding in one’s subject – but more importantly, his lectures had about them a genuine air of excitement – more like Deleuze at the Sorbonne in ’68 than the dreary courses in Epistemology one had to endure at a provincial British university in the 90s. Not only was the course he taught pointedly entitled ‘Current French Philosophy’ – a currency otherwise alien to our curriculum — more importantly, Land’s teaching was also a sharing of his own research-in-progress. This was unheard-of: philosophy actually being done, rather than being interpreted at second-hand?! He would sweep his audience into a speculative vortex of philosophy, economics, literature, biology, technology, and disciplines as-yet unnamed – before immobilizing them again with some startling claim or gnomic declaration. And as Land spoke, he prowled the classroom, sometimes clambering absentmindedly over the common-room chairs like an outlandish mountain goat, sometimes poised squatting on the seat of a chair like an overgrown mantis.

Full Story: Divus: Nick Land – An Experiment in Inhumanism

Also, Simon Reynolds wrote a piece on Land’s CCRU group back in 1999 that sheds some light on the period:

“It was pretty obvious that a theoretically Left-leaning critique could be maintained quite happily but it wasn’t ever going to get anywhere,” says Plant. “If there was going to be scope for any kind of….not ‘resistance’, but any kind of discrepancy in the global consensus, then it was going to have to come from somewhere else.” That elsewhere was certain passages in A Thousand Plateaus where Deleuze & Guattari suggest that, in Plant’s words, “you don’t try and slow things down, you encourage them to go fast as possible. Which was interestingly connected to Marx’s ideas about capitalism sweeping away the past. So we got into this stance of ‘oh well, let it sweep away! Maybe it should sweep away faster’.” Other crucial influences were neo-Deleuzian theorist Manuel De Landa’s idea of “capitalism as the system of antimarkets”, and, says Plant, historian-of-everyday-life Fernand Braudel’s conception of capitalism as “an amalgam of would-be free market forces and state/ corporate/centralised control functions. So there isn’t really any such thing called ‘capitalism’, it’s just a coincidence of those two really extreme and opposed tendencies.”

Plant and the CCRU enthuse about bottom-up, grass-roots, self-organising activity: street markets, “the frontier zones of capitalism”, what De Landa calls “meshwork”, as opposed to corporate, top-down capitalism. It all sounds quite jovial, the way they describe it now–a bustling bazaar culture of trade and “cutting deals”. But “Cyberpositive” actually reads like a nihilistic paean to the “cyberpathology of markets”, celebrating capitalism as “a viral contagion” and declaring “everything cyberpositive is an enemy of mankind”. In Nick Land solo essays like “Machinic Desire” and “Meltdown”, the tone of morbid glee is intensified to an apocalyptic pitch. There seems to be a perverse and literally anti-humanist identification with the “dark will” of capital and technology, as it “rips up political cultures, deletes traditions, dissolves subjectivities”. In “Meltdown”, Land declares: “Man is something for it to overcome: a problem, drag”.

This gloating delight in capital’s deterritorialising virulence is the CCRU’s reaction to the stuffy complacency of Left-wing academic thought; a sort of rubbing salt in the wounds (as when Land jibes at the “senile spectre” of Socialism, an allusion to The Communist Manifesto). “There’s definitely a strong alliance in the academy between anti-market ideas and completely schleroticised, institutionalised thought,” says Mark Fisher. “Marx has been outdated by cybernetic theory. It’s obvious that capitalism isn’t going to be brought down by its contradictions. Nothing ever died of contradictions!”. Exulting in capitalism’s permanent “crisis mode”, CCRU believe in the strategic application of pressure to accelerate the tendencies towards chaos. The real struggle, says Fisher in fluent Deleuzian, is within capitalism and between “homogenisation processes and nomadic distribution.”.

Full Story: Simon Reynolds: RENEGADE ACADEMIA: THE Cybernetic Culture Research Unit

(Both links via hautepop)

Meltdown” is perhaps Land’s best known work.

Many of Land’s former students — including Fisher — seem to have given up this fetishization of capitalism. Some now favor of an anti-neoliberal “accelerationsimthat sounds an awful lot like autonomism to me (see also this critique of accerlerationsim). (Update: I was missing the key point of accelerationism, which is still the idea of speeding up capitalism to watch it crash and burn).

Land, meanwhile, has ridden that neoliberal reality tunnel to its (il)logical conclusion: neo-reaction.

See Also:

Manuel DeLanda

Mark Fisher

Sadie Plant

A Theory Of Darkness. Also: Archives

Want an idea of what may or may not be discussed at Weird Shift Con?

Adam Rothstein wrote:

Dark Theory is both new and old. But to elucidate, if not to illuminate the ongoing practices of Dark Theory, it would be useful to review a number of the areas where Dark Theory finds itself reestablishing the darkness, coloring in the faded black paint, and erecting new shades to produce more shadow. There is nothing that can be properly said to either “be” Dark Theory or “not be”. It is impossible to tell whether the dark is due to neglect, or to attention; there is no distinction between negative value established by the mainstream, and positive value repaired by the undercurrent. The only thing that can be said is that Dark Theory has an interest. There are places where Dark Theory focuses its attention, like a pack of wolves turning their heads in recognition of an unfamiliar scent, whether prey or predator. Like rainwater, black and silent, nestling into the depressions of rock and soil, Dark Theory invests itself, collecting liquid potential across the pores and gullies of terrain, seeping down to pool in saturated dirt within the basin of rock, below. It is here that we will look for it, taking an interest in where it interests itself. Let us sink these wells, and drink of what rises to the surface.

He goes on to list several examples: black magic, black metal, crust, black bloc, black ops, black power, black flag, darknet, dark euphoria.

And Tim Maly wrote for Contents Magazine about “dark archives”:

First, let me show you three things that dark archives are not. On the left is an artist’s conception of the burned Library of Alexandria. That great library was once an archive, but when it was destroyed, it was destroyed utterly. It is no dark archive, it is simply gone. Proceeding clockwards, we have an artist’s rendering of the universal theory that connects gravity to quantum mechanics. This theory and countless other pieces of missing scientific knowledge are contained in no dark archive (so far as we know). They are simply unknown. They remain to be discovered. Finally, we have a screenshot of Amazon.com’s homepage. Its database of goods is vast, but Amazon invests considerable resources in ensuring that whatever is there is findable, and, through its network of affiliate links and public relations, ensuring that we know to look. Its archives are bright. […]

Known knowns. Known unknowns. Unknown unknowns.

If you think about that formulation, you’ll see that there is an unspoken fourth quadrant. These are the unknown knowns: the things we don’t know that we know. It is appropriate to our field of study that Mr. Rumsfeld left it off.

He cites the August 6th 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States” as an example. He also writes about ships’ log books, which for many years were thought of as just antiques, but are now valuable to climate scientists. Once recognized for their value, the log books left the realm of “dark archive” and entered the ranks of “normal” archives.

Corporations Are “Bad AI”

Tim Maly writes:

One of my favourite recurring tropes of AI speculation/singulatarian deep time thinking is mediations on how an evil AI or similar might destroy us. […]

And all I can think is: we already have one of those. It is pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that 1. a marketplace regime of firms dedicated to maximizing profit has—broadly speaking—added a lot of value to the world 2. there are a lot of important cases where corporate profit maximization causes harm to humans 3. corporations are—broadly speaking—really good at ensuring that their needs are met.

I don’t think that it’s all that far fetched to suggest that maybe they’re getting better and better at ensuring their needs are met. Pretty much the only thing that the left and right in America can agree on is that moneyed influence has corrupted American politics and yet neither side seems able to do much of anything about it.

Full Story: Quiet Babylon: The Singularity Already Happened; We Got Corporations

See also: Yes, There is a Sub-Reddit Dedicated to Preventing SkyNet

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari Biography

Lengthy review of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: Intersecting Lives by written by François Dosse and translated by Deborah Glassman:

Deleuze and Guattari were hardly alone in thinking that the unconscious might have something to add to left-wing politics, and that it might even speed the revolution. Attempts to fuse Marx and Freud were very much in vogue. But Anti-Oedipus had little in common with Freudo-Marxism, with its lyrical dream of a revolution that would, in a single stroke, free individual desire from bourgeois repression and the proletariat from capitalism. The individual was of no interest to Deleuze and Guattari, and though they referred to the proletariat the mention seemed dutiful. Their goal wasn’t to liberate human beings, but rather the current of desire that happened to flow through them. […]

Guattari, at La Borde, had tried to enable subjugated groups to become subject groups, and he and Deleuze had come to believe it was patronising, authoritarian, even fascist, to speak on anyone else’s behalf, which is what intellectuals in France had always done. As Foucault noted in his introduction to the American edition of Anti-Oedipus, their true adversary was not so much capitalism as ‘the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us’.

Full Story: London Review of Books: Desire Was Everywhere

(via Abe Burmeister)

Buddhism and Post-Structuralism

Christopher Vitale has been writing essays comparing Buddhism and, for want of a better term, post-structuralism. I don’t feel like I know enough about either subject to know how well he does.

Here’s a bit from the first in the series:

Meditation, then, is practice in separation from narratives and images which we have felt determine some aspect of who or what aspects of ourselves and/or our world are. As each thing comes by in our mind, we separate from it. I’m thinking that thought, but I am not that, it doesn’t bind me, I’m free from it, I can separate from it. I feel that emotion, and yet, it doesn’t control me, it is a part of me, I acknowledge it, I see it as caused by its contexts, but I am free to choose to dive into it and explore it, or let it fade, because I’m not that. I’m rather, a principle of infinite negativity, to use a Hegelian term, a site of infinite creativity. I am only limited by my relation to my contexts, and I can alter this through action, by making the world a better place, a freer place.

And this desire to free the world doesn’t mean doing what we think is best for it, to control it. Rather, it means to try to help the world free itself from its own chains, its own illusion of the necessity of the narratives and images, the essences, which imprison it. It is to want the world to self-actualize, on its own terms. A good therapist wants this both for themselves and their clients. This is what a Buddhist means by compassion.

Full Story: Networkologies: Wrestling with the World in Virtual Reality: A Deleuzian, Anti-Essentialist, Relational Reading of Classical Buddhism as the Radical Practice of Freedom and Desire

See also: Defending Post-Modern Theory (As Always) by Adam Rothstein.

Genesis P-Orridge, Hakim Bey and John Perry Barlow in Conversation (1993)

Here’s an old Mondo 2000 interview from 1993 with both Genesis P-Orridge and Hakim Bey conducted by Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow:

JOHN: Right, Taoism has no truck with good and evil at all.

HAKIM: Taoism seems to be the one religion that doesn’t have the Gnostic trace.

JOHN: In our culture, the problem arose with the Romans.

HAKIM: I think it goes further back. It’s Babylon. It’s just like the Rastas say, “It happened in Babylon.” It’s Marduk and Tiamat. It’s Mr. Hard-on God up against Sloppy Mom. In China, chaos is a benevolent property. Huntun is the gourd or the egg out of which everything comes. He’s a wonton. Huntun and wonton are the same words. He’s like this little dumpling and everything good comes out of him. In Babylon, chaos is the disgusting monster vagina that has to be ripped up by Marduk into myriad blobs of shit and slime. And we are those globs of slime. That’s how the human race came into being. What is the purpose of the human race? To serve Marduk, to serve the masculine principle, to store up grain in the granary for the priests, to pay for the priests for their sacrifice so they get the free hamburgers. That’s the whole Western myth. It’s St. George and the Dragon. St. George pins the dragon down.

In China, the dragon is the free expression of creativity. He’s the mixture of Yin and Yang, the principle of power. But here’s evil, plain and simple. This is why chaos has kicked off, for me, for Ralph Abraham, and others, an interest in making a critique of this Western mythology, and saying, “Let’s put Humpty Dumpty back together.”

JOHN: There’s been an interesting co-evolution lately of a lot of apparently disconnected things, like chaos mathematics and neo-tribalism, a sudden interest in Taoism and what I perceive to be a deep feminization of Western culture.

GEN: Some philosophers feel that there’s a risk in absolute unconditional surrender of that male-God power, even though it’s obviously failed miserably. Should we seek out every possible male trait and subordinate it to a female principle?

HAKIM: I didn’t like the rule of Dad, but I don’t think I’m going to like the rule of Mom either.

Pastbin: Zoning Out, Temporarily with Hakim Bey and Genesis P-Orridge

See also:

Douglass Rushkoff in Conversation with Genesis P. Orridge (2003 and 2007)

Hakim Bey dossier

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge dossier

Conjoined Twins with Connected Brains

Krista and Tatiana Hogan

Krista and Tatiana Hogan are conjoined twins joined at the head. But unlike all other known craniopagus twins the Hogans’ brains are also linked, by a small bridge connected the thalamus of one girl to the thalamus of the other. Susan Dominus wrote for The New York Times last year:

Suddenly the girls sat up again, with renewed energy, and Krista reached for a cup with a straw in the corner of the crib. “I am drinking really, really, really, really fast,” she announced and started to power-slurp her juice, her face screwed up with the effort. Tatiana was, as always, sitting beside her but not looking at her, and suddenly her eyes went wide. She put her hand right below her sternum, and then she uttered one small word that suggested a world of possibility: “Whoa!”

New York Times Magazine: Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind?

(Thanks Trevor)

Stark, Minimalist Posters Explaining Different Philosophies

determinism by gex



London based graphic designer Gex sells these stark posters representing different philosophies.

You can see them all here and purchase them here. You can read the text better in the online shop.

(Thanks Supervert)

Reason Is Used for Justification, Not to Determine Truth


For centuries thinkers have assumed that the uniquely human capacity for reasoning has existed to let people reach beyond mere perception and reflex in the search for truth. Rationality allowed a solitary thinker to blaze a path to philosophical, moral and scientific enlightenment.

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we’ll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

The idea, labeled the argumentative theory of reasoning, is the brainchild of French cognitive social scientists, and it has stirred excited discussion (and appalled dissent) among philosophers, political scientists, educators and psychologists, some of whom say it offers profound insight into the way people think and behave. The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences devoted its April issue to debates over the theory, with participants challenging everything from the definition of reason to the origins of verbal communication.

New York Times: Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth

(Thanks Bill)

This evolutionary psychology explanation is (like most evol pysch) speculative. Regardless of whether reason evolved “for” the purposes of argument, or merely reached a point where it was flawed but “good enough” we may never know. But I do think most people use reason more to defend their positions rather than to arrive at accurate positions (what does that mean for me, and my arguments?) To quote Michael Shermer in Why People Believe Weird Things, “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons” (via that Cracked article).

See also Systematic Ideology and Cultural Cognition.

Steve Pavlina Plunges Into Full Blown Egoism


It seems that “personal development” guru Steve Pavlina has plunged fully into Stirner-esque egosim. Duff McDuffee analyzes Pavlina’s world view:

I hate to break it to you, but if you’re reading this and your name isn’t Steve Pavlina, then you don’t exist. Nope, you’re just a dream character in his reality. Only his identity and consciousness are real, only his impulses matter. You and I, well, we’re merely projections of Pavlina’s inner world. In his reality, all these images that appear to be other people, other subjective consciousnesses, are actually just dream characters. Or at least these are some of the results of Pavlina’s recent experiments into what he has aptly named “Subjective Reality.”

My last two posts have been about what I’m calling “the logic of evil”—the self-justifying rationalizations that lead a sincere seeker to become a psychopathic guru. In what could only be explained as an act of The Universe, I just happened to cruise by A-list personal development blogger Steve Pavlina’s blog today and found that he had produced a great example of exactly what I’ve been writing about. In fact, in the last few months he has been experimenting with taking the plunge into full and complete narcissism—and even Solipsism—which even he admits that he won’t be capable of turning back from once he has fully done so.

Beyond Growth: How to Take the Plunge into Complete Narcissism: on Steve Pavlina’s Subjective Reality

Pavlina has been a proponent of law of attraction, so this is none too surprising.

See also Duff’s referenced two articles on the logic of evil:

The Logic of Evil in Personal Development

The Logic of Evil, part 2: Trapped by the Void vs Freed by the Void

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