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June 11, 2009

Drawing a maze for thought

In order to assure Dominic that there is no overnight war / conspiracy against Badiou, this post is ��� disappointingly ��� not about Badiou whose Number and Numbers I have passionately read and am still admiring. It is rather a short commentary on differences and similarities between Alex Williams and Ray Brassier's identifications of asymptopia. However, before moving in that direction I would like to add a few 'crude' comments regarding the recent so-called Badiou war, a term so symptomatic of the thought-journalism common in blogsphere (and prevalent among us all). There is something paranoically puerile in accusing Alex of an attempted ��� yet failed ��� patricide against Badiou. People are twittering around and charge Alex with lack of argumentation, premature patricide and closing comment boxes whilst not only they are not really against comments culling and closure but also they themselves fail to pose any serious argument other than delivering pieces of thought-journalism combined with a few witty and safely friendly remarks to ensure the constancy of the readership flow in the future. Alex's confrontational post suggests, more or less, the first reactions of a reader who has been disillusioned about the deficiencies of a particular philosophical system or a philosopher. Looking back into the history of philosophy (a branch which has been needlessly vilified), no emerged philosopher has ever tackled the position of an established philosopher by initially constructing an argumentative juggernaut. It always starts with a combination of anger, frustration and a brief theoretical hailstorm which is too short to be distinguished as an opposition. It is in the next steps and over a long period of time, that the reader or philosopher begins to tweak her position by either filling in the gaps herself or turning them into ballistic weapons against that particular philosophical system or philosopher. And I hope this will be the case with Alex who has disturbed the ubiquitous temptation of blogsphere for a cozy and friend-appeasing atmosphere which sometimes does not amount to anything other than our secret desires for pseudo-philosophical gossiping. As the last note, I am looking forward to Alex's future writing projects which I am sure will be remorselessly challenging and provocatively rigorous. (Also thanks to Dominic for posting two original posts in response to Alex, very appreciated.)


In his recent post, Alex draws a connection between limitropism and the unbound eliminativism of the kind elaborated by Ray Brassier in Nihil Unbound. At first look, these two cannot be wedded, for the limitropic conception of zero suggests a dynamic process (a verging-on) wherein zero or non-belonging as such is never achieved. Yet Brassier's eliminativism appears to be fully in opposition to this limitropic conception of zero which seems to be conjuring up a vague shadow of vitalism. Closer investigation of Brassier's eliminativism, however, shows that limitropic convergence toward zero is indeed a vector of eliminativism which is always in the process of shedding belongings (desertifying) and abandoning commitments to any horizon of interiority (or what Alex calls eliminativist betrayal) in its reckless approach toward zero.

Brassier's unbinding of the Churchlands' eliminativism in Nihil Unbound is done through different stages encompassing intricate engagements with Badiou, Meillassoux, Deleuze, Heidegger, et al. However, the reinscription of eliminativism on a cosmic level which is the characteristics of his position can not be consummated unless he combines eliminativism with something that undoes all horizons of interiority (from organisms to earth to stars, galaxies and matter itself) and returns them back to the concept-less exteriority of space or the cosmic abyss. In other words, in his attempt to mobilize eliminativism concomitantly toward all-encompassing-ness and cosmic unbinding (all the way down), Brassier needs a conjectural model that can loosen every horizon of interiority (be it us or planets and stars). Such a model, accordingly, requires a conception of interiority that is determined directly from an exterior backdrop in a nested chain by which interiorized horizons can be loosened up in regard to each other. It is like a loosening function that traverses the interiority of human in regard to the organic interiority which itself is nested within the interiority of the earth as a consolidating medium for inorganic materials required for the emergence of life. This nested chain of interiorities enables the loosening function to continue to the solar economy (conditioned by the interiority of a star / sun) and then to the galactic interiority all the way to the interiority of matter itself. Therefore, this conjectural model which is responsible for the cosmic reinscription of the Brassierian eliminativism needs to simultaneously present an all-encompassing regression toward the precursor exteriority and a topology of nested interiorities whereby the regression or loosening can be effectuated and guaranteed. Only such a model can bring about the possibility of the cosmic unbinding of eliminativism or asymptopia.

This model surfaces in two locations of Nihil Unbound: one in the second half of 'Thanatosis of Enlightenment' and the other toward the end of the book in 'The Trauma of Life'. In both cases, Brassier elects Freud's energetic model of thanatropic regression for this mission which consists of the cosmic unbinding of eliminativism and abandoning commitment to any horizon of interiority, a process which goes so far that it even deserts matter itself. However, both episodes are ended abruptly to prevent the slippage of the book into the ambivalent yet interesting consequences brought about by the unbinding and cosmic reinscription of Freud's theory of thanatropic regression.

In order to consummate the non-dialectical negativity of eliminativism as a cosmic event (asymptopia), Brassier uses a model that can deploy the eliminativist vector inside every horizon of interiority, desertifying them all the way to the exteriority of the cosmic abyss where even elementary conditions for materialization are considered as indexes of interiority which must be deserted. This elected model is the energetic model of thanatropic regression presented in Beyond the Pleasure Principle built upon Freud's earlier theories of trauma as well as theories proposed by figures such as Rank, Ferenczi and Spielrein. However, Freud only observers and speculates on the thanatropic regression toward the precursor exteriority in organisms or the organic life in general. Therefore, what Freud distinguishes as thanatropic return to the precursor exteriority is only the energetic and compulsive return of the organism toward the inorganic exteriority which itself is another interiority (another lie) set against another exterior backdrop. For this reason, in order to consummate the non-dialectical negativity of eliminativism on a cosmic level through Freud's model of thanatropic regression which only consists of a passage from organic into the inorganic, Brassier should reappropriate Freud's theory of thanatropic regression which is essentially a theory of drive. To put it differently, in the pursuit of an unbound eliminativism, Brassier reinscribes (absolutizes?) Freud's energetic model on a cosmic level. Yet insofar as the eliminativist appropriation of thanatropic regression casts humanism and matter aside in favour of an ever-expanding never-attainable exteriority, it also redeploys human life and matter (on all their organizational and illusive strata) as mediums for the nested intrusion of cosmic exteriority. And of course it is the latter that brings the possibility of complicity. In other words, the cosmic modification of Freud's theory results in the transformation of the eliminativism into an economically, dynamically and topologically ambiguous process ��� a limitropic convergence upon zero, a loosening with no end. [1] Now why is that Brassier's cosmic reappropriation of thanatropic regression gives Eliminativism a perverse and ambiguous underside which is fertile for the kind of politics of the Insider that Alex has in mind? And even more importantly, why is it that this cosmic reappropriation turns the unbound vector of eliminativism into a limitropic process that has insinuations of a dark vitalism wherein neither ontological differences nor materiality enact any privilege?

The reason lies in Freud's own theory of drive(s) and the way the energetic model of thanatropic regression is constructed. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud reveals that thanatropic regression is always bound to two other panoramas or energetico-structural principles: one is the theory of umwege (the energetic maze or detour) whereby the interiority of life becomes an increasingly twisted inflection of exteriority as such; and the other is the necrocratic law of the organism (or any other horizon of interiority) whereby the organic interiority should only die in one and only one way. According to Freud, the economy of thanatropic regression for any given organism or horizon of interiority must ensure that all other ways of dissolution or dying must be staved off. [2]

If Brassier unbinds and cosmically reinscribes Freud's theory of thanatropic regression in order to extend the eliminativist vector all the way to the cosmic exteriority, then he must also unbind the theory of umwege beyond the organic life or bios. Because as Freud has explicitly argued and as Brassier has implicitly indicated, the thanatropic regression or the vectorial move toward the precursor exteriority is inextricable from the increasing convolution of the umwege. Here the convolution of umwege or the increasing twist in the roundabout regression to the precursor exteriority must not be confused with the complexification of life as an opportunity for posthumanist scenarios, because it suggests the differential decomposition of all interiorities via nested deployment or intrusion of cosmic exteriority. After all, the emergence or determination of an index of interiority from a precursor exteriority does not mean the complete envelopment of that exteriority and its reintegration according to the laws of the interiorized horizon. There is always a part of enveloped exteriority that refuses to be assimilated within the index of interiority, thus extending the intrusion of the precursor exteriority into the emerged nested horizons of interiority.

In short if the thanatropic regression is extended beyond the organic life to an abysmally cosmic level, so are the twisted and hence limitropic involutions of the umwege. Just as the organic regression toward the inorganic exteriority reinscribes the limitropic dimension of the organic life as a twisted curve aiming at the inorganic, the eliminativist absolutization of extinction or the unbinding of the theory of thanatropic regression also re-enacts the cosmic reinscription of the umwege as an infinitely convoluted slant toward cosmic zero. On this level, roundabout / convoluted paths of umwege do not stand for animate or inanimate life (bios or physikos) anymore, but rather they exhibit a continuous limitropic process via the loosening of nested interiorities (deserting one interiority on behalf of another so as to draw the graph of the cosmic exteriority, the ultimate maze-path for the remobilization of thought).

[1] Thanks to Kevin for his brilliant post on the ambiguous energetic dynamism of drive as 'loosening'.

[2] I will elaborate more on the necrocratic law of thanatropic regression and its restricting impacts on the identification of Capitalism in an essay I am completing for Umbr(a).

Posted by Reza Negarestani at June 11, 2009 12:32 PM