Saturday, July 18, 2015

Repost: Nick Land: On Savage Atheism

A central and insistent tenet of Schopenhauer’s philosophy is that intellect, personality, and consciousness are extremely superficial and derivative characteristics of complex nervous-systems, and are thus radically untypical of the nature of the cosmos, which is driven by impersonal and unconscious forces.
– Nick Land, A Thirst For Annihilation (Routledge, 1992)

The point that Land makes in this small section on the battle between German Idealism and the Kantian cosmology which Schopenhauer detested is that Kant and his followers brought back religion by way of the back door. Kant himself destroyed the pre-critical proofs of God only to rebuild and construct a new theistic cosmology in which he installed “faith guided by moral necessity” at the center of the human project. Both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on the other hand would break free of this hidden monotheistic agenda and replace it with – as Land puts it: a “savage atheism”, that attacked the very foundations of the humanistic project and its anthropocentric cosmology and philosophical presumption of human exceptionalism. While Schopenhauer considered theism to be the “apotheosis of immorality: a wretched attachment to the principle of identity” his student, Nietzsche would go even further and develop a philosophy and cosmology that put life itself at the service of “unconscious trans-individual creative energy”.

For those of us who see the future connected to a disconnect or bifurcation from the human into the inhuman Land reminds us of Nietzsche’s original diagnosis:
The end of humanity does not lie within itself, but in a planetary artistic experiment about which nothing can be said in advance, and which can only be provisionally labelled ‘overman’. For overman (“Übermensch“) is not a superior model of man, but that which is beyond man; the creative surpassing of humanity. (pp. 15-16)
David Roden outlines in his book Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human the ‘disconnect thesis’ such a possibility of the posthuman future in which humans might just be a thing of the past: “I have characterized posthumans in very general terms as hypothetical wide “descendants” of current humans that are no longer human in consequence of some history of technological alteration” (Roden, David (2014-10-10). Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human [Kindle Locations 2411-2412]. Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition). What he argues for is that the difference between humans and these future beings “should be conceived as an emergent disconnection between individuals, not in terms of the presence or lack of essential properties. I also suggest that these individuals should not be conceived in narrow biological terms but in “wide” terms permitting biological, cultural and technological relations of descent between human and posthuman. (Roden, KL 2423-2426)
However else it is possible to divide Western thinking, one fissure can be teased-open separating the theo-humanists—croaking together in the cramped and malodorous pond of Anthropos—from the wild beasts of the impersonal. The former are characterized by their moral fervour, parochialism, earnestness, phenomenological disposition, and Aborting the human race sympathy for folk superstition, the latter by their fatalism, atheism, strangely reptilian exuberance, and extreme sensitivity for what is icy, savage, and alien to mankind.
– Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

Antihumanism: A Savage Atheism

In a specifically pointed critique of Jaques Derrida’s post-structuralist project of ‘deconstruction’ Land will tell us that we should not confuse his anti-humanistic philosophy with Nietzsche’s antihumanism. Land will show that the threads of a libidinal or energetic materialism that runs from Kant, through Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to Freud and Bataille among others should not be confused with the deconstructionist phenomenological approach of Derrida and his anti-realist kindred. The difference between Nietzsche’s “aggressive genealogies that wreck unity on zero, and Derrida’s pursuit of the interminable borderlands between presence and absence” are light years apart. Derrida falls in line with those of the German Idealist traditions and the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger in aligning themselves with Hegel’s superficial phenomenology of reason, identity, and negation as modes of presence. (ibid. 17) Derrida’s limpid repetitions of the oppositional matrix of signs, signifiers, and signified in an endless binary writing that as Land will suggest operates in a triangular mode of opposing both sides of the binary opposition using a “partially concealed pseudo-concept with incoherent predicates that typify his concept of “presencing” or “writing” which is consummated in a given deconstruction leads to an insipid reading of history and existence as a form of endless equivocation. This endless inability to decide on the undecidable leads to a rather limpid nihilism of the word rather than an aggressive mode of revolt against the Word.

As Land will suggest of another post-modern laborer in the field of undecidability and irony Jean-François Lyotard follows his master, Derrida, in a false and limpid “disinvestment of monotheism”, one of forgetting God rather than revolting against the religious stance in itself. What Land despises in Derrida and Lyotard is there [sic] supposition that atheism is an instance of negation, rather than a transmutation or transvaluation of its sense. (ibid. p. 18) Instead Nietzsche offers against the negation of a limpid antihumanistic display of negative theology a much more insidious critique of Christianity. As Land tells us:
Zero is fatally discovered beneath the scabrous crust of logical negativity. It is obscurantism of the most tediously familiar kind to suggest that the ‘nothing’ of nihilism is an indissoluble theological concept. The nihil is not a concept at all, but rather immensity and fate. Nietzsche describes atheism as an open horizon, as a loss of inhibition. The ‘a-‘ of atheism is privative only in the sense of a collapsing dam. (idid. p. 19)

Source: S.C. Hickman, "Nick Land: On Savage Atheism," Alien Ecologies blog, June 9, 2015, accessed July 18, 2015,

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