Saturday, 5 April 2014

Upcoming Conferences 2014

Some upcoming conferences that I am speaking at:

1. Memories of the Future at Chelsea College of Arts in early May

My paper is titled: 'The Blackening of Epekeina Tes Ousias: The death of the sun and the death of philosophy.'


The very possibility of any future memory has recently been called into question by Ray Brassier and his speculative extension of the eventual death of the sun and extinction of the universe as articulating an “‘anterior posteriority’ which usurps the ‘future anteriority’ of human existence” (Nihil Unbound, p. 230). Tied up with this examination of extinction is a critique of the explicitly future oriented philosophy of phenomenology. Brassier makes this explicit in his use of what he calls the ‘hyperbolic’ phenomenology of Emmanuel Levinas. This paper will examine Brassier’s critique of the future anterior and his use of Levinas and contrast this with the discussion of Levinas by Jacques Derrida in ‘Violence and Metaphysics’. I will show show how Derrida addresses the issue of the death of the sun in terms of the blackening of epekeina tes ousias (the Platonic notion of ‘beyond being,’ expressed, importantly, by the sun in the allegory of the cave), which in turn reveals the stakes of the death or end of philosophy (as a discourse of the future) in terms of the danger of developing it in either a ‘superior’ or ‘apocalyptic’ tone. I will argue that Derrida’s parallel yet prior critique of the possibility of the future anterior set certain limits and reveals traps that Brassier’s speculative method and replacement ‘anterior posteriority’ are prone to fall prey to without proper care. In contrast, I will argue, Derrida attempts to provide an alternative model of the future, which itself is not entirely unproblematic.

2. Consequences of Realism at the MAXXI Museum in Rome also early May

My paper there is titled: 'Time-Determination and Hyper-Chaos: The Reformulation of the Principle of Sufficient Reason In Kant and Meillassoux.'


Recently the legacy and influence of Kant has come under attack in the work of Quentin Meillassoux, who in After Finitude develops a path of thought that avoids that taken by philosophy after Kant. In this paper I will argue that despite Meillassoux’s avowed antipathy to Kant there are in fact several close parallels between the works of these two philosophers. This is most obvious when comparing Meillassoux with Kant’s pre-critical writings, that is, the problems which Kant struggled with in his own ‘dogmatic slumber’ before the solution of transcendental idealism was developed in the Critique of Pure Reason, i.e., before, in Meillassoux’s polemical terms, his ‘catastrophic’ turn to correlationism. Focusing on the pre-critical Kant opens up a new point of comparison with Meillassoux, who almost exclusively considers Kant in terms of the Critique, as Kant’s pre-critical project, with its belief in the possibility of rational knowledge of the world, is much closer to Meillassoux’s own project. The parallels between these two thinkers are unsurprising as they are both attempting to solve the same problem: how is knowledge of the world possible after the rejection of dogmatic metaphysics in the form of the principle of sufficient reason? This formulation of the fundamental problem supplies the structure of the two stands of thought that makes up my comparison of the two philosophers. Firstly, the rejection of dogmatic metaphysics; and, secondly, the reformulation of the principle of sufficient reason that this prompts. This latter strand will reveal the most important point of comparison between Kant and Meillassoux: that both reformulate the principle of sufficient reason in terms of time; for Kant, as the possibility of transcendental time-determination, and for Meillassoux as the principle of unreason as the hyper-chaos of time. However, I will argue, this explicit focus on time is problematic, this is most evident in the problems that Kant runs into in the Transcendental Deduction, which ultimately is unable to provide a solution to the issue of time-determination. Recognizing these problems in Kant will, by virtue of the already established parallel, provide new means with which to interrogate Meillassoux’s own temporal principle of unreason.

3. Phenomena at the Margins at Sussex University in June

Paper title: 'Spatial Disruptions and Temporal Amplifications: The effect of Heidegger’s turn to place on his reading of Kant.'


This paper will explore the ways in which the later developments in Heidegger’s thought, in particular the growing emphasis on space and place, affect his earlier interpretations of Kant and the predominance of time and temporality within these interpretations. In turn, these examinations will reveal how space was already important to Kant himself and that while Heidegger’s overly temporal interpretation in many ways occluded this importance or pushed it to the margins, its existence within Kant’s system provided a disruptive element that played a part in Heidegger’s turn towards spatiality and the philosophy of place. While Heidegger follows this spatial turn in his own thought he never explicitly returns to his interpretation of Kant to explore the way in which the neglect of spatiality in his interpretation perhaps effected or is itself affected by this turn. Although, he certainly does recognize the possibility of such a task, noting in the 1973 Preface to the Fourth Edition of the Kantbook that his engagement with Kant lead to both the manner of questioning from Being and Time and also later gave another, unspecified meaning to this manner of questioning; leading him to admit that he has “attempted to retract the overinterpretation [of Kant] without at the same time writing a correspondingly new version of the Kant book itself.” This paper suggests that it is the role of space in Kant that provided the new meaning for the manner of questioning; and, using the aporias of time and space in both the Critique of Pure Reason and across Heidegger’s work, sets out and argues for what such a new version of the Kantbook might look like. This will allow me to speculate on what this might mean for the place or orientation of phenomenology, in every sense of those terms.

Message end.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Metaphysics of Messianic Time - University of Iceland 28th November

I will be giving a paper titled 'The Metaphysics of Messianic Time:  Benjamin, Derrida, McTaggart' at the University of Iceland on Wednesday the 28th of Novemeber at 1500 hours, room details to be announced.

Here is the abstract of the paper:

In his book Specters of Marx Jacques Derrida confronts the end of history and the problems of the future with a “strange concept of messianism without content, of the messianic without messianism” (p. 82).  This would seem to evoke or reference Walter Benjamin’s concept of messianic time that appears in his Theses on the Philosophy of History.  However, an analysis of this apparent connection is never fully explored in Specters of Marx, which leaves Derrida’s conception of the messianic curiously incomplete.  In this paper I will argue that instead of omission through oversight, Derrida in fact shies away from this confrontation in order to avoid the question of the connection between theology and philosophy.  This question is one that must be asked about Derrida’s work; and just as he may be criticised for not fully engaging with the theological, he can also be accused of being too engaged at the expense of scientific rationality.  To counter this latter accusation I will explore similarities between the accounts of messianic temporality developed by Benjamin and Derrida and that produced by the metaphysics of time as defined by the ‘analytic’ tradition - specifically in terms of McTaggart’s paradox.  Through this comparison I will sketch out some consequences for the philosophical concepts of space and time, and the rethinking of metaphysics that these consequences necessitate.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Nuclear Futurism Available Now

Although the offical publication date is not until the 28th of September, Nuclear Futurism from Zero Books is already in stock and available.

I recommend that you buy it from your local independent bookshop, but in the unlikely event it is
not available from them it can also be purchased from the following (people in institutions, please tell your library to get a copy as well).

In the UK:
Starting from the end of history, the end of art and the failure of the future set out by such ends, Nuclear Futurism reinvigorates art, literature and philosophy through the unlikely alliance of hauntology and the Italian futurists. Tracing the paradoxes of the possibilities of total nuclear destruction reveals the terminal condition of culture in the time of ends, where the logic of the apocalyptic without apocalypse holds sway. These paradoxes also open the path for a new vision of the future in the form of experimental art and literature. By re-examining the thought of both Derrida and Heidegger with regards to the history of art, the art of history and their responses to the most dangerous technology of nuclear weapons, the future is exposed as a progressive event, rather than the atrophied and apocalyptic to-come of the present world. It is happening now, opening up through the force of art and literature and charting a new path for a futural philosophy.

Friday, 31 August 2012

News and a link

Sorry it has been quiet recently, I have been moving back to London to take up a PhD position with the London Graduate School.  I will be working more on the links between Derrida's critique of phenomenology, the potential for a positive and possibly metaphysical element to deconstruction and more recent realist or materialist metaphysics.  I have also been busy trying to promote my forthcoming book 'Nuclear Futurism'.  As part of that I have a piece over on the Zero Books Blog, which will have to be a proxy for the lack of a real post here.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Against All Ends: Hauntology, aesthetics, ontology

There is an article of mine on the relationship between hauntology and aesthetics over at 3am magazine:

"Although it is already old, considering hauntology as either genre, aesthetic or zeitgeist is problematic; and is so for precisely all of the reasons that it claims to be each of these things. As nostalgia for lost futures or mourning for utopia, it falls into for the exact problems of utopianism that lead to its initial loss. It is also these problems that hauntology was developed to overcome, so its reduction precisely to them is somewhat ironic, if not cause for yet another mourning. Thus through exploring the way in which hauntology has been co-opted by the over-theoretisation of music, and indeed art more generally, in such a way that repeats these problems, I will also show the way for a return to hauntology as a solution to these problems and the affirmation of a more radical thinking for the future."

Read the whole thing here:

I find the uptake of hauntology as a genre or aesthetic a bit strange as it negates much of the strength of Derrida's original formulation.  But this is not the only time that art theory borrows something from philosophy and discards the foundational part of its thinking, or the wider consequences of a metaphysical framework.  But this is a line of thought that is in progress, hauntology is one one manifestation...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Ends of Europe: Hegelstrasse - Einbahnstrasse

Some photographs and notes taken on my journey to trace the ends of Europe across the continent - enough reading European philosophy and history, it was time to live it.


I flee Australia searching for history, seeking my culture in that old world of Europe.  My first stop is Berlin, where history ended in 1989, where history entered my mind, my earliest memory of watching the news and thinking: “this is an event, this is me watching the world change.”  Little did I know I was watching the world disappear, watching, as desperate people hacked away at the grey concrete of the wall, as all that was solid melted into air, not by the force of their hammers, but by the force of what lay beyond, by the force of the destruction of the possibility of beyond.


A new tourist I mistakenly do that which will hide all history from me: a walking tour.  The guide tells us how he worked in Berlin for the British Secret Service, helping refugees from the East settle in the West.  Capitalism saw no borders within Germany, it had already broken down the Chinese Wall, it knew that this one too would fall.  My guide tells us that he had named his daughter Maureen, after ‘mauer,’ German for wall.  The word inscribed at intervals on the double line of cobbles that traces the path of the Wall.  Later I follow this line, East on my left, West to the right. 

Another guide (I have not abandoned them yet), a week later in Prague, tells me of how forty years previously he had come home to find a Soviet tand in the flower bed outside his house, inside his wife in a pool of blood.  He doesn’t tell me what the Soviet soldiers had done, only that his wife is still in a wheelchair.  This is why he works, 70 years old, a speaker of seven languages, once a great Czech opera singer, now he must repeat the history he only wants to forget.  I am the only one on the Communism walking tour.  “Why do you want to know these things?” he asks.  All he wants to do is forget, the loss of his state pension does not allow this, he must work, he is forced to remember.  “Why would you leave your perfect life in Australia to come and see these horrors?  Go home, forget Communist Czechoslovakia, live your life,” he tells me.

 But I want more than that life, I am searching for the beyond glimpsed backwards through those chinks in the Wall on television all those years ago.  Something else, something to believe in.  In Berlin I visit Hegel’s grave, just to make sure he is dead.  The great thinker of historicity, of the end of history.  In Jena I look up at the window out of which he watched Napoleon ride past in 1806: “Today I saw the spirit of the world,” he wrote to a friend.  What do I see gazing back up at that window looking and longing to be touched by history?  A tram rumbles past, there is a market in the square, I catch the train back to Weimar and my hostel.  His grave was small, there were bullet makes on the mausoleums in the cemetery, another war for another freedom.

The streets in Mostar are also full of bullet holes.  “This was the front line,” I am told, the war raged along this street, now all the houses are left in ruin, the monuments and public squares have not been rebuilt.  Is this because people want to remember, or want to forget?  When the war broke out the Bosnians and Croats joined forces to drive out the Serbs, that done they then turned on each other, bisecting the town. The bridge here once connected the world in a way that Napoleon never did, destroyed in the war but rebuilt, now the tourists come here in the summer to dive off: fifteen metres to the water below, they get a certificate afterwards.

A few days earlier, there are fewer bullet holes in Sarajevo, but the streets have the stars of falling shells.  I see the Holiday Inn, outside it sniper alley, in the distance the tops of the high rises where the snipers took aim as people ran through the open spaces.  I see the Latin Bridge, where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, where the world descended into the maelstrom of mechanised war, where the twentieth century started.  Sarajevo captures that century - beginning and end - and its meaninglessness.  But here the people dance in the bars, the music is sung in Bosnian, like a reminder (remainder) of a world before globalisation.  Perhaps in excising the twentieth century from their memories the people have done away with the end of history.  I am never more foreign.

“My brother, he live Melbourne,” the taxi driver tells me.  The bus station is way outside the city.  Buses from Belgrade only go to the Serbian side of Sarajevo, old divisions lie deep.  In Australia football teams can no longer have ethnic names, it causes too much violence when the Serbs play the Croats.  “Idiots, we came here to leave that history behind, to forget all that,” a friend with Yugoslav heritage once told me.  But the opposite is true.  If the twentieth century is removed in Sarajevo, as history continues to progress, then in Australia the twentieth century is the only history they have.  Founded peacefully in 1901, Australia must create itself the myth of violence necessary for statehood.  It violent origin is an export import business:  export soldiers to die on a faraway peninsula, import a creation myth of violence.  State violence and power is legitimised through the enforcement of memory that everyone else would rather forget, history is fetishized. Franz Ferdinand and the importance of that narrow bridge in Sarajevo repeats itself across football stadiums and tennis courts, removed from historicity.  I continue to seek the ghost of Hegel.


I try to provoke him.  In Weimar I visit the Nietzsche archive, there is the chair he sat stilly in after his sister moved him here.  A madman, a mute idiot, perhaps the ubermensch?  His death mask looks sad, a certain pathos cast in the closed eyes, the long moustache.  Perhaps he knew that one day Hitler would visit his sister here in this archive – a maunsoleum, where he never wanted to come.  This madness was not the joyful wisdom he sought, the dancing star of chaos.  I travel from Weimar to Buchenwald.  Barbed wire traces through the green trees, the silence is still, the air clear, but in the forest are plain posts, the now marked graves of Soviet prisoners strangled in a small and dark basement, hung up on hooks that line the walls like a changing room.  I think of the violence of sports, the air is dank, I run back to the forest.



Prague has the death mask of Jan Palach, whose self-immolation is commemorated by a mound in the ground outside the national museum.  His cracked voice speaks, recorded as he lay dying of his burns.  I cannot understand it, but there is rage and resolution in those foreign words, hidden behind the determination of that scarred mask.  Once again a Soviet tank stands beside his memorial, it is the forty-year anniversary of the invasion.  Why would you want to see this?  Why would you want to forget, where would civilisation go then, what for poetry?

Auschwitz has fewer trees than Buchenwald, and more barbed wire.  More buildings, more bunks, more toilets and more tourists.  The size needed to contain it all amazes me.  Big numbers are always written small, but the vastness of the expanse of the camp astounds me, foundations are cast across the landscape like a geometry of terror, the order is the worst thing.  I watch nuns listening to the headphone of the guided tour; girls casually do cartwheels on an endless straight road, bored and out of the way.  I avoid the tours now, I no longer want some else’s experience, I have to find my own way.  Some doors are open and I am the only one walking along the rows of bunks (five people to each) and rows of latrines.  The train tracks end at the remains of the gas chambers, blown up by the Russians when they found them.  I am the only one to stare beyond, where would the tracks continue?

In Budapest the atrocities all roll into one.  The terror house documents the Fascists and the Communists, those adversaries who ended up starring across another boundary in Berlin.  From there I see the Body Worlds exhibit, the commoditisation of death, dressed up as science to remove the personality.  Now we only see the organs, without the barrier of skin and touch they are no longer bounded.  I am sickened, from one death factory to another.  But Budapest remains melancholy.  “Our country used to be so much bigger,” the hostel owner tells me.  He is unkempt, but wearing a suit, like a caricature of the bedraggled ex-academic.  Maybe he too was once an opera singer, or a philosopher who, like Lukács became a party member, before the fall of Communism condemned him to the purgatory of the tourist trade.  No wonder he is melancholy when he must mop up the vomit of drunken backpackers.  But the land that used to be Hungary, that he laments the loss of, I am also told be Romanians is theirs, by Moldavians, by Poles and Ukrainians.  It is the same land, just the countries shift, no wonder there are wars and death, and so many skeletons and ghosts, but so few remembrances of them.

Perhaps this is why the bones of the Sedlac Ossuary do not sicken me the way the plastic corpses in Budapest do.  These deaths are supposed to be remembered - the plagues, the wars, the invasions - memento mori.  They remember not only the end of this life, but that for the Catholics who keep them, that there is another beyond.  I find another barrier, past the skin and the organs is the limit of death itself, no wonder skulls smile, this memory extends back from my future, from my death to come, haunted in advance, I find the history I was seeking not in the past but in the future.


There should be more bodies in Timisoara, Romanina, but they are not there only their images, but perhaps that is all that was there in the first place.  The revolution against Romanian communism started in Timisoara, started with these bodies that are not there.  For the revolution death served a different memory, lived a second life.  The anti-communist revolution reflected perfectly Marx’s injunction to “let the dead bury the dead.”  Here the living made the dead live again.  Recently entombed corpses were exhumed and tortured for the sake of the news cameras, an atrocity was simulated to stimulate the revolution, the dead were resurrected and re-remembered for another reason.  The images of the cameras lied, just as the body could not be left to lie, television ended at its own hands, as its spectacular images legitimised themselves and the logic that propagated them.  There is nothing for me to photograph there, the whole town is already an image, I pass through quickly.

Marx himself is buried in London, but no bullet holes mark the mausoleums in Highgate Cemetery.  His grave is much bigger than Hegel’s, a challenge itself, just like the words inscribed upon it: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it.”  The future intrudes again, Unlike Hegel, Marx’s ghost haunts Highgate not from the 19th century, but from beyond, further than the 21st.  I have been seeking the wrong histories.  Four years later I return to Berlin, this time I touch the Wall, up close, it is no longer an object and it matters all the more.  I no longer trace the path of the Wall, but this time those of the tunnels, dug by people trying to escape.  There is no longer somewhere to escape to, but perhaps it is time to start digging again.