March 31, 2007

Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Theory



Thursday 26 April 2007
Goldsmiths, Room RHB142, 11am – 6 pm

'A philosophy should be judged on what it can tell us about Lovecraft...' (Graham Harman)

The Centre for Cultural Studies brings a unique one-day symposium dedicated to exploring H. P. Lovecraft’s relationship to Theory.

The event will not follow the ordinary format of the academic conference. Some written materials will be circulated beforehand, but there will be no papers delivered on the day. Instead, there will be structured discussions based on five of Lovecraft’s stories:

'Call of Cthulhu'
'The Shadow over Innsmouth'
'The Dunwich Horror'
'The Shadow out of Time'
'Through the Gates of the Silver Key'

Themes to be discussed include:

The Weird
Fictional systems
Lovecraft’s pulp modernism
Houellebecq’s Lovecraft
Lovecraft and hyperstition
Lovecraft’s materialism
Lovecraft’s racism and ‘reactionary modernism’
Lovecraft and schizophrenia
Lovecraft and the transcendental
Lovecraft and schizophonia

Participants so far include:

Benjamin Noys (Chichester) - author of The Culture of Death and Georges Bataille: A Critical Introduction
Graham Harman (Cairo) - author of Tool-Being and Guerilla Metaphysics. (Graham says that a philosophy should be judged on what it can tell us about Lovecraft)
China Miéville - acclaimed author of Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and other tales of the Fantastic.
Luciana Parisi (Goldsmiths) - author of Abstract Sex: Philosophy, Biotechnology and the Mutations of Desire
Steve ‘Kode9’ Goodman (UEA) - author of the forthcoming Sonic Warfare
Justin Woodman (Goldsmiths) - expert on the Chaos Magick appropriation of Lovecraft’s mythos
James Kneale (UCL) - author of ‘From Beyond: H. P. Lovecraft and the Place of Horror’
Mark Fisher (Goldsmiths) - k-punk weblog
Dominic Fox - Poetix weblog

Anyone wishing to attend should e-mail Mark Fisher. Registration is free but places are limited. If anyone wishes to lead discussion on any of the stories, please state in the email which story you would like to talk about

Posted by hyperstition at 06:40 PM | On-topic (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

COIN Hyperstition

Arthur Herman draws on the modern history of counter-insurgency warfare to explain why the key to victory lies, quite literally, in the future.

Galula's third lesson was that the counterinsurgency must project a sense of inevitable victory. The local populace had to see the military and civilian authority as the ultimate winner. For that, native troops were essential. In counterinsurgency terms, they were more than just auxiliaries in the fight; they were also signposts of the future ...

Do such dynamics basically ensure that these conflicts are lost on the Western domestic front (where the centre of hyperstitional fatality lies)?

March 13, 2007

Bio-Kantian Cosmology

Hmmm ...

March 01, 2007

Diagonalization II: Refractory Impossibility and its Heretical Alignments

For people who haven’t read Collapse II yet, this post is an introductory note on Apocalypse in the Wake of Refractory Impossibility, Collapse II, Oxford: Urbanomic, March 2007.

Through its spatial and temporal approaches to God and Apocalypse, Islamic theology formulates a methodology for begetting a profoundly political tool which is capable of turning theology itself into heresy.

According to Islamic theology, although the Christian God is infinite and is posed as an outsider but its externality is not radical enough and is self-contradictory, for the gift of revelation or apocalypto cannot be given to Man if God is radically external to Man. A God radically and perpetually external to Man can never be revealed to Man either partially or fully, on the ontological or the epistemic plane. In short, radical externality exceeds affordance even if affordance is effectuated – on the levels of both possibility (posse) and actualization (est) – as an infinite capacity. Revelation is certainly the production of the outside but its epistemic infinity (revelation as the superiora of knowledge) is bound to the affordability of both its ends – the subject of generosity and the subject of receptivity. In Revelation, while the latter (Man?) cannot entirely liberate itself from capacity and merely shifts to a new capacity entailed by its ontological integrity, the former is only able to actualize its generosity by submitting to the capacity of the receiver. Otherwise, the infinity of the gift can only register itself in waste and ignorance of the other. This is why in terms of Revelation, outside is an environment rather than radical exteriority; it is an outside whose boundaries coincide – a continuum of different capacities.

Islamic theology, however, presents God as radically and unyieldingly external to Man. This externality can be approached as a technique which perforates theology, reinventing it as an epistemological tool for confronting a pure externality without reducing it to ontological possibilities or an object of Man’s openness – affordance. A thoroughly outside-oriented ethics without an anticipation of being communicated by Man, Islamic theology once again renders the Outside as the great abomination:

Once theology presents the Divine as the pure outside and the manifest refractory impossibility, the monotheistic God enters a crisis with cataclysmic proportions: its ontological possibilities are undermined and its unity can merely inflame its precarious relationship to many. When the radical outside (infinitely external) is posed in respect to the affordable outside (an outside with infinite potentials) as in the case of Islamic theology compared to other monotheistic strains, the affordable outside turns into an epistemic tool that certifies the innumerability of other infinities. Each of these infinities demonstrates their autonomous existence by a diagonal opposition to the present infinity. The result of applying such a technique to God is nothing but God turning into an ultimate heresy itself. Once a new set is extracted from a series of sets in a way that it can both include those sets and situates itself infinitely external to them – similar to Cantor’s diagonalization technique – or infinitely higher in dimension, it can produce infinite anomalies if its laws and qualities are applied to those constitutive sets. Not only can the infinitely external set spawn heresies as a constant Outsider but also it is posited for its constitutive sets (the subjects of its heresy) as an ultimate never-ending heresy.

Cantor’s diagonalization [1] is a method for unbinding radical outsides (more in terms of invoking rather than creating them). It indirectly propagates outsides by mapping the failure of a given infinity to contain elements of other infinities or outsides. Cantor’s method suggests that outside-engineering is exercised by building an external set which cannot be related to the existing set (even if it is an infinity itself) through a ‘one-to-one and onto’ (bijective) correspondence:

Let s be any set and let t be the power set of s. Now at this point, s maps into t and every x in s maps to the set containing x in t. But there is no bijection (injection / one-to-one + surjection / onto) mapping s onto t.

Suppose f is such a bijection and build a set w in a way that for every x in s, x is in w iff x is not in math1.gif. Now f maps s onto all of t, and w is a subset of t, so there is some x with math2.gif. Yet math3.gif iff math4.gif. Therefore, the correspondence is contradictory and cannot exist. The ontology of the existing set / infinity cannot contain other sets / infinities but at the same time is responsible for giving rise to them (their homecoming). Diagonalization is a political tool for counteracting ontology and its existential opportunism.

Islamic Allah is posed to Christian God and other monotheistic manifestations of the Divine in the same vein; it exercises heresy on the Divine on behalf of the Outside and its refractory externality. In short, heresy as an outside-oriented praxis is always effectuated by re-positioning (re-mobilization and re-alignment). The new heretical set brings itself behind its subjects for the sake of both affirming and being infinitely external to them. Such a re-positioning results in being a heresy in itself and harvesting countless heretical possibilities from positions or alignments being held by other sets. This is why, all heresies adopt the notorious positioning of a tergo (from behind), that is buggery through consensus.

"If God basks in his house, let us reconstruct it according to the laws of demons." (Collapse II)

[1] The controversies around Cantor’s method – on a statistical / probability level – deserve an exhaustive discussion.

Posted by hyperstition at 04:12 PM | On-topic (0)

What are Cities?

‘Civilization’ means urbanized society and cities have been the most dynamic irruptions in the history of the planet, which makes the relative paucity of focused theory on the topic rather mysterious.

Historian William H. McNeill goes some way to correcting the deficit in his essay Cities and their Consequences, perhaps the most brilliant analysis of the urban phenomenon since Jane Jacobs (although unfortunately hidden behind the subscription wall at The American Interest).

McNeill begins his succinct study with the key demographic fact that cities have always operated as population sinks (or pumps) and, at this level of description, as megaparasites, supported by continual inflows from fecund rural areas (villages). The process of urbanization is overwhelmingly the most consequential factor shaping local, regional and planetary demographic trends. Furthermore, because urban populations are incapable of feeding themselves directly, their mere existence operates as a stimulus to trade, placing a vector in history through the specialization of labour and commercialization of society.

McNeill writes:

A second and more massive conversion to market farming [than that of the Greeks and Classical Mediterranean] occurred in China, beginning about 1000 CE when the Song government decided to collect taxes in the form of cash. That decision compelled ordinary peasants to find something to sell in order to pay their taxes. By that time, thousands of barges and small sailing vessels floating up and down the rivers and irrigation canals of China had created a cheap and reliable internal transport system. Small differences of price for objects of common consumption—even of rice—thus made it worthwhile to carry everyday commodities long distances. Large-scale marketing of specialized crops ensued. Soon millions of peasants found it advantageous to buy the rice they ate and sell silk or some other specialized crop, thus assimilating their way of life to city folks' long-standing dependence on buying and selling to gain their daily bread.
China's wealth and skills shot upward as the advantages of specialization were unleashed on a massive scale, and other parts of the earth soon began to follow suit wherever safe and cheap water transport allowed. The Indian Ocean coastlands and Southeast Asia, together with the Mediterranean, Baltic and Atlantic shores of Europe, were the principal places where commercialized farming began to take off within the next two or three centuries.

As urbanization proceeds ...

Older forms of human society—peasant ways, with all their limitations and hardships—are being left behind. The future is surely going to be different. Exactly how different no one can yet say, but two principal factors appear to loom large at least in the short run.
One factor concerns the half of humankind still living on the land and still cultivating the soil. This half of humanity, overwhelmingly non-Western, is now increasingly aggrieved by poverty, monotony and hardship compared with the lure of urban wealth and comfort. These are the people who see their children hastening away toward the world's cities in hope of improving their lives—more often than not only to meet disappointment in pullulating urban slums. Inhabitants of those slums, without regular jobs or reliable sources of income, constitute the other major human factor of our times. That human mass constitutes a pool of active discontent far more strategically located than rural dwellers, since their frustration and anger can readily be mobilized against oppressors living in city cores where everything they sought still glitters unshared and unattainable, temptingly close at hand. In short, the phenomenon of the subproletariat is being globalized amid technological conditions well-suited to the rapid spread of demagogic manipulation.

The other principle factor is cultural mutation, at the level of religion in particular. In cities ...

... sectarian cohesion is under constant strain, for in urban settings the ubiquity of choice among beliefs becomes unavoidable. Joining a religious group becomes a deliberate act, departure a perpetual possibility. Lifelong stability and adherence to unquestioned, inherited custom, nearly universal in village life, is unattainable under such circumstances. Instead, the very fragility of bonds invites a fevered intensity among successful sects. Demanding more from true believers and dividing them more sharply from outsiders are what sustain urban sects as their leaders seek to make it more difficult to abandon fellowship. Is it any wonder, therefore, that what is often termed "fundamentalist" religion is overwhelmingly an urban phenomenon?