Upcoming Talk: April in NYC

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”
Nietzsche

This event addresses a fundamental problem for contemporary theory: How can we think the darkness? On one side of this darkness is a regression and slippage back to gothic-romanticism, a state of mind, and thinking that FWJ Schelling alluded to when he said that: “History as a whole is a progressive, gradually self-disclosing revelation of the Absolute”. On the other side, is the scientific-realist perception of and about the darkness, as it overwhelms us, and encourages immersion in absolute [nothingness-strangeness-the alien]: i.e. it performs as the nature of the universe.

We begin from a consolidated position of darkness: >No hope, no future, no humanity, no way out, no limitations to thinking the darkness …

From this start-point spring 3 perspectives:
Dark Anthropocene = geology folding back into a singularity <
Afropessimism = contemporary methodology for destroying the world <
Non-standard animism = a politics of indivisible extra-terran non/humanity <

The three perspectives are material experiments in working with and in the darkness. The stakes of these experiments are multiple — they constitute finding something when one is blind. The risks are high, the rewards potentially immense. This is not theory by any other name than an encounter on a dark horizon …

…Pessimism

deville

I contend that afro-pessimism has not taken pessimism seriously enough. In what many consider the foundational text, Frank Wilderson’s 2010 book Red, White, and Black, pessimism is only mentioned six times. While it is clear that his pessimism emerges from a metaphysical pessimism based on an objective claim about the world (Thacker, 67). I want to push the conversation forward not through the ontology of the non- but a non-ontology. Rather that developing negativity out from structural positionality, I want to develop the other “major key” of pessimism: the subjective attitude of pessimism towards the world (67). I do so by drawing on theories of gender, and philosophies of negation.

Continue reading “…Pessimism”

Afro-Pessimism as Aesthetic Blackness

Ligon-Untitled_Four_Etchings_1992_B0The beginning to a talk I will give at the Cultural Studies Association conference in Riverside, CA next week. On the occasion of Achille Mbembe’s new preface to the African reprint of On the Postcolony by Wits University Press

Mbembe: Critique is witnessing as well as endless vigilance, interrogation and anticipation. A proper ­critique requires us first to dwell in the chaos of the night in order precisely to better break through into the dazzling light of the day.

We recognise the moment of pessimism when the layers of the past and the world of the present fall into the void; that is, a place that is not a place. We recognise the moment of pessimism when we trivialise human experience or provoke misplaced empathy or contempt, when, unable to release language, we succumb to the elemental materiality of the there is.

We enter this “dark night of language” when its symbolising powers are suddenly crippled and, instead of revealing what is hidden within the self-evident and what lies beneath the surface, behind the mask, language circles in on itself and hides what it should be showing.

This paper is on the darkness that clings to so-called “afro-pessimism.” My thesis is that to take the “pessimism” of afro-pessimism seriously, I argue for moving from the metaphysical pessimism of making claims about this world to the moral pessimism of a fatalistic attitude towards the world. Continue reading “Afro-Pessimism as Aesthetic Blackness”

Laruelle: The Philosophical Decision

philosophical-decision
Philosophers are no better than creationists. Philosophers may hate irrationalist leaps of faith, but French theorist François Laruelle locates their own narcissistic origin story. For him, all philosophy begins with the world as ‘fact.’ The atomists begin with the rain of the void, Kant posits the noumenal thing-in-itself, and the New Materialists start from matter. These facts do not speak for themselves but are mere setup, as once philosophy establishes what ‘is,’ then it narcissistically suggests the world exists for the purpose of proper philosophical reflection. Gottfried Leibniz presents the principle of sufficient reason, “everything in the world happens for a specific reason” (and it is the job of philosophers to identify it), and Alfred North Whitehead alternatively says, “no actual entity, then no reason” (so it is up to philosophers to find one).  Continue reading “Laruelle: The Philosophical Decision”