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BioShock: Decision, Forced Choice and Propaganda is shipping


In their infinite power, Amazon are shipping printed copies of BioShock: Decision, Forced Choice and Propaganda a full two weeks before the publication date. So you can order it NOW – or wait for the Kindle.

Review of Interactive Art and Embodiment: The Implicit Body As Performance by Nathaniel Stern


Latest Furtherfield offering HERE. I should say that, despite my concluding comments, I really enjoyed Stern’s book – and you should definitely seek it out.

If Materialism Is Not The Solution Then What Was The Problem?


That’s the title of my response to Harman’s article Materialism is Not the Solution: On Matter, Form and Mimesis – which was just recently published in the Nordic Journal of Aesthetics No. 47. This was a re-written version of a response I gave for the Aarhus Institute of Advanced studies last October.

With the very kind permission of Jacob Lund (the editor) he has allowed both essays to be hosted by AUC Egypt as one PDF, which can be accessed HERE. If, for some reason, your network can’t access the AUC page (which has happened for some people), I’ve uploaded it on my page HERE.

I should also say, having read the entire issue in print, that the whole issue is something rather special. See below for the contents: including essays by Stiegler, Hanson and Goriunova.



On having the last word..


skull-and-crossbones-coloring-pages-free-butterfly-fairy-coloring-pagesIt seems like an age ago since I posted any thoughts on here. Actually, it seems like an age ago since I posted anything on here.

A few reasons for this; as usual, work commitments abound – both academic and professional (a.k.a. my normal day job) – together with looking after my baby daughter and educating myself on how to be a parent, all of which have terminated any free time. Any spare hours or days that were needed to visit conferences, seminars, etc, have been put on the back burner now, whilst I finally, finally finish my thesis and move forward with life. Yet holding a baby in one arm in a fit state of shrieking inconsolability at three in the morning hasn’t precluded me from keeping up with stuff on the blogosphere (for my sins).

Now, there is increasingly aggressive talk on blogs and in forthcoming publications about the “already dead” status of Speculative Realism. Pete Wolfendale’s debut OBJECT-ORIENTED PHILOSOPHY: THE NOUMENON’S NEW CLOTHES comes out next month (including a post-script by Brassier) which is being touted by some, particularly Leon Niemoczynski, as being the final “Truth” nail in the coffin: that SR/OOO has been dead for ages, perhaps from the start, but no-one really knew or believed it. And everyone’s meant to believe that once the final argument has been put in place, once the final reveal of the truth has made its literal presence known, all of its practitioners should acknowledge the change that has taken place, and reject its current popular manifestation (comically dubbed Speculative ®ealism) as a legitimate movement.

Even stronger than this, comes from Leon’s reflections on Brassier’s postscript (and I’m only quoting from Leon’s post because he’s read it – I haven’t) that the sheer existence of an SR legacy has now been put to bed not just as an exhausted and rejected relic of yesteryear: a general acceptance that SR was – as Wolfendale states – “dead on arrival”, but that only one, out of the initial four proponents have ever permanently self-identfied with it.

Less extreme was Ben Woodard’s suggestion that SR’s legacy (in context of conversations held at the Emancipation as Navigation Summer school in Berlin this year) was the “dead elephant in the room”, insofar as those who partook in its burgeoning interest retrospectively lamented the direction it took, together with the community that fostered that direction (I’m thinking here of the rapid change in production that blogging and social media has afforded).


As an associate editor of Speculations, it might be reasonable to assume that I have a biased interest in saying the opposite, or at least diagnosing something along the lines of a Joker-Batman-esque “I don’t wanna kill you – what would I do without you” kind of relationship. After all, Pete wouldn’t have written a 400 page book on OOO if he didn’t think it was worth doing, or that the philosophy wasn’t worth engaging with. Unless the sole existence of the book is there to exploit attention or some agenda, which I don’t believe is the case. In proclaiming the death of SR, it’s difficult to see how the practice of doing so matches the declaration. In any case, despite the fact that Pete’s taken to publishing the entire debate in book form, he knows that the inevitable fallout of the book will take place, almost exclusively, on blogging sites and escalating Facebook threads: threads which if social media history is concerned, serve no purpose than to mediate ones need to always have the last word on matters (in fact what else is the intellectual use of social media other than a perpetual device to leave public opinion, helpful or not, permanently unsettled? Almost no-one pays attention to how such systems construct the conflicts of public opinion).

**It also seems slightly bizarre on Brassier’s side, since by all accounts, he originally coined the term in the first place in order to set the 2007 symposium up. That’s not to say that a philosopher has no right to refuse, reject or disown their own project for various reasons, (Putnam always seemed to do it) than it is to question why they haven’t taken responsibility for the fact that they jointly set up the original symposium in the first place, together with speaking at the second one in Bristol in 2009. But as I said, I haven’t read the post-script so I’ve leave this hanging.

Sadly my response is a bit more banal than this. If SR’s existence is dead, it makes sense to ask what it is and how it has died, alongside the more pertinent question of dead for whom? To declare the death of a philosophical legacy, or that it was dead anyway, is ultimately tied to where you think it went wrong, or what path it missed. It doesn’t take on the demand of declaring collective agreements amongst like-minded in-groups which everyone else has to accept in advance. I’d like to think there’s a lot more going on to this air of conflict than the ebbs and flows of social discord within various arenas of online miscommunication.

I’d like to suggest that as a movement SR was probably too divergent to continue as a movement. But dead altogether? Not in the slightest, and here’s why. That divergence has slowly emerged as a deep hostility between two very deep and important philosophical-historical positions. This is why the calls to question how one might self-identify oneself as a proponent of SR or not, holds little sway to the notion that SR is dead: largely as I think SR is constitutive of a split so encompassing, and only brought to light because of SR, that no-one can ignore it. As Heidegger is fond of reminding everyone – and especially himself – sometimes the deepest changes are the ones that fail to make themselves present.

For me, SR’s very existence cultivates, and continues to cultivate, an incompatible hostility which feeds the claims and positions being made – even if they happen to be predominantly coming from a neo-rationalist wing which finds the whole affair moribund. Clearly, this includes but does not encompass Accelerationism, which I just take to be a development constructed almost entirely from the rational-scientistic community of SR, and not a movement which either indulges itself in proclaiming the latter’s death (if it does), or thinks it provides an ulterior movement separate to it. As I said in my Dublin talk late last year, SR just simply is the incompatible shredding between two modes of criticism (which I termed Demonstration and Description) both of which radicalise the limits of rational thought very differently, perhaps antithetically.

And what has become increasingly obvious is how this divide has strengthened rather than relaxing into any form of intersection: in part, because if one takes SR to be the rejection of correlationism at its most basic, then rather being known as the name of two symposiums, or a well-known (albeit fringe) brand of new continental thought, or a defining moment where philosophical discussion and promotion exploded on the internet, or a new book series, or the latest thing to read in the art world, or a rallying call to young philosophers and artists hoping to launch a career, or even all of these – then its legacy comes from an unsettled philosophical conflict which arises once correlationism is rejected or adopted differently. A conflict which is strong enough to permeate and resonate through other disciplines of science, art history, aesthetics, law and education. To be clear on the matter, what is fundamental to me, and from what I consider to be important here, is the philosophical source of this conflict: and of what needs to be understood and addressed before one has any right to dictate what the future of the conflict entails.

What I might be saying here then, is that SR wasn’t so much a movement of disparate voices returning to metaphysics, realism and materialism, than the beginning of a renewed split in those domains: Here, one side takes realism/materialism to be reducible to authentic epistemological vehicles of science and mathematics whilst the other side does not: refuting in turn, that the real/material can be known by reason, and that reality is composed of other skeptical-based entities that possess, and are defined by the same limitations. That’s a huge incompatible split: precisely as Kantian correlationism was a foundation which partly reconciled those differences, dispossessing reason from ever knowing reality whilst also dispossessing other entities and life-forms from having a transcendental turn themselves.

Yet, what could not be dispossessed was the general sound for how one approached doing philosophy: should one be enlightened or romanticised? Phrased differently, we might say; what are the limits of reason vs. where are the limits of reason. More and more, this has all the hallmarks of being a 21st Century return to the hostility that surrounds the split between Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment (and of its various guises) that have sustained nearly three centuries of intellectual debate. From the primacy of aesthetic experience vs. anti-aesthetic concepts: from the enlightenment deductive science of logic vs. the romantic science of naturphilosophie: from American pragmatism (and neo-pragmatism) to American transcendentalism, from eliminative materialism to outright vitalism, the fruits of this hostility seem obvious to the future of SR, and yet not to anyone else. I’ve resisted writing about the split in this manner for some time now, perhaps because it seemed too simple to me, or too naive, too distant from the problems SR originally raised, or perhaps too obvious to make it stick. Yet, this split plays its hand not just in the ambitious claims one might make of reality as a human response to enlightenment or romantic ideals (and how they might operate differently from their previous iterations in response to breakthroughs in science or art): it also constitutes the opposing claims for what philosophy ought to do as practiced, and how those practices utterly conflict with one another.

If you really think as, (apologies for names omitted) Meillassoux, Brassier and Wolfendale do, that the Age of Reason never finished, that literary words serve little to no aesthetic purpose than to make transparent rational proofs, then anything which characterises counter-enlightenment thinking must be subject to de-romanticisation. If you think, as Harman, Shaviro, Morton myself and possibly Grant do, that the real can never be formalised and put into literal formulae, that literary words serve the ultimate purpose in taste, alluding one’s grasp of the strange mystic qualities of the real without actually doing so, then fragments of the romantic, counter-enlightement tradition must be used to question why enlightened reason alone thinks it has special access to reality: and that perhaps there are other fruitful methods of relating thought to nature, or thought to entity. In the end, the rejection of correlationism was perhaps a catalyst for rejuvenating an unsettled debate, in which a final resolving word was not said, and perhaps will be never said.

A final note: this is why my Demonstration/Enlightenment and Description/Romanticism split does not perfectly coincide with an analytic vs. continental one: a split whose calls for reconciliation are found wanting in my honest opinion. The split doesn’t accurately characterise, but generalise the intentions of all who consider themselves a member of either tradition, and those who do not (think of Wittgenstein’s legacy for instance). And yet clearly, they are deeply related no doubt. Those who preach that the divide has been overcome (in the most recent cases, the Accelerationists) don’t exactly overcome it, than they operate with all the same bad habits that analytic philosophers have done for years in response to continental texts: by thinking that the way to overcome the divide is to de-romanticise all the continental texts and show their argumentative flaws (only with the good grace to take continental texts completely seriously before the de-romantic slaughter can begin). But what if one tries it from the other way as Cavell attempted (and failed) to do in the 60s – 80s: what if the way to overcome, or at least question the analytic/continental divide was to romanticise all the analytic texts?

Final Cover for BioShock: Decision, Forced Choice and Propaganda


Here it is: with thanks to Ian Bogost and Jussi Parikka for the endorsements.

BioShock Cover

Early 1973 Cavell in the Screening Room series


He doesn’t say anything in, what looks like, a 5 minute preview – but just look at Cavell. Could he be anymore 70s?


Trigger’s Broom Paradox


Today, I had only just realised that a bizarrely large number of visits to this blog come from this wikipedia article on the Ship of Theseus. Apparently someone cited my post (alongside THIS link) for ‘modern day’ versions of the well known logical mereological paradox – namely, the Trigger’s Broom paradox. I didn’t realise that Trigger’s Broom is actually a studied ‘thing’ now – or at least a humorous method of teaching the Ship of Theseus paradox anyway.


I’ll be writing more about this paradox very soon for an extended journal article taken from this years AAH talk (in particular how it is utterly relevant to the work of Florian Slotawa and the question of novelty and ‘making nothing’) But more on that when it’s confirmed.

A quick litmus test for Demonstration and Description: The Experience of Children


I’ve had a few emails come through about my recent Speculations article The Anxiousness of Objects and Artworks 2: (Iso)Morphism, Anti-Literalism and Presentness – wanting me to elaborate on this core axis that separates thinkers within Speculative Realism. Two emails in particular did the usual trick of bringing up one particular thinker (in this case, Iain Hamilton Grant and Eugene Thacker) and suggesting that neither of them fit on either side of the split.

So, there are those who fall into Demonstration and those of Description, and I defined it thus (not that I enjoy quoting myself at length);

“It follows then that speculative realism simply is this incompatible splintering, this fracture, and its existence emerges from this schism. Demonstration argues that thought itself can fruitfully prove or deduce knowledge of itself and thus reality, whilst Description argues that thought never fully deduces any in-itself and has little ontological significance or achievement in doing so, since its ontological significance is not superior to any other kind of possible relation between entities. Once correlationism is rejected, there is no middle way to stake a claim apart from these two broad orientations of “what is”: either reality must be epistemologically demonstrated or reality must be described in terms of real ontological variance. Once one side is chosen, the other recedes from view.”

Now, I don’t have any time right now to flesh out all of the consequences of this schism, less all of the productive frictions that continue to prosper from it. The article’s pretty long and deliberates on how, I believe, the schism operates in Fried’s art criticism. What I can suggest is one possible litmus test for thinkers who perhaps might be confused about which strain/history of philosophy might fall onto either side of the divide. Others are welcome to offer alternative litmus tests.

This has only come to my mind very recently, and off the back of two events: 1.) Last Saturday, my wife gave birth to a little baby girl, whom has honestly and surreally changed pretty much everything (and, hence, explains the lack of time), and 2.) I’d like to expand on one single Cavellian point I made a few weeks ago, which I introduced for my talk on para-academia at the Governing Academic Life conference at the LSE: what Cavell famously called the Education of Grown-ups.

The litmus test operates as follows: how would philosophy (whether metaphysically, empirically, pragmatically, rationally) approach a child’s or baby’s experience? Now by that, I do not mean a philosopher’s experience of children, or a general philosophy of experience. but a child’s experience of the world and of themselves. How might a metaphysics, or some Kantian/Hegelian variant approach such a thing?

A child’s experience is quite a suitable test here, because we might in the most vulgar way possible suggest that their experience is not – well not ‘pure’ as such: certainly not indicative (or subject to) a higher level of deductive rational experience. And yet, it would be stupid to admit that a child’s intelligence is identical to a pet’s, as if all they are is a set collection of undeveloped rational tools. A child’s experience must be a form of life, an ordinary one. Children aren’t stupid anyway. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is often assumed to be subject to naivety, yet the schism in accounting for that experience remains: and is perhaps best articulated by the following;

It makes sense to me that Demonstration, as I’ve defined it, would establish and deduce an objective insight into a child’s experience: that is to say, how one might explain – just as with all human experience – how a child’s experience comes to be the way it is, evolutionally, functionally, linguistically and so forth. Anyone who partakes onto the side of Demonstration might understand how a child experiences, and would set up a functional theory to objectively explain how their experience is transformed into an adult’s experience, which would accomplish its own rational explanation, and the demonstration of itself. If am to know what my daughter needs when she is wailing at 3.00.a.m, I have to rationally explain their behaviour on the evidence that is presented to a third-person objective criteria (no feed or nappy change for several hours: or they simply need to experience certain conditions of being in the womb, where it is proven that they feel the safest).

Mathematics is a classic discourse in this sense: educating oneself, as one does, from a child’s limited point of view, to the full-on adult (or child prodigy) self mastery of pure mathematics and endless expansion of deductive truth. A child starts with natural numbers, and progresses until they reach, I don’t know, category theory or something. So too would, linguistic competence be subject to logic and other demonstrative capabilities: the social understanding for how a child’s experience is transformed by linguistic understanding.

Yet, Description as I’ve also defined it, would provide an opposing understanding of a child’s experience. A child’s experience under the Description view is irreducible. Their experience is never capable of deducing their surroundings, but neither can we say the same for adults, and neither is anything that exists capable of absolute deductive truth either. My baby daughter is only capable of doing a finite number of objectives, feed, sleep, grimace, pass wind, poo, wee, and all the rest: yet what right have we, to demonstrate away an explanation for what she directly experiences, as experience? My baby daughter abstracts a great number of things, as do I, as does my remote control and smart phone. Our naivety is a shared common feature, not a level of rational competence and my ability to rationally comprehend more abstractions does not trump her own. She is only capable of a certain number of capabilities, which will no doubt increase, yet that does not explain what she experiences, as an abstract description of what she is and what she can currently do.

It is for the latter reason (less you think that I subscribe the former side) that I am beginning to appreciate more and more Cavell’s witty quip that philosophy is the education of grown-ups. It’s a quip which sounds, at first, obscure and naive but seems to reveal a deeper intuition about what we do when we ‘do’ philosophy. Here’s Cavell;

“In the face of the questions posed in Augustine, Luther, Rousseau, Thoreau… we are children; we do not know how to go on with them, what ground we may occupy. In this light, philosophy becomes the education of grownups. It is as thought it must seek perspective upon a natural fact which is all but inevitably misinterpreted – that at an early point in a life the normal body reaches its full strength and height. Why do we take it that because we then must put away childish things, we must put away the prospect of growth and the memory of childhood? The anxiety in teaching, in serious communication, is that I myself require education. And for grownups this is not natural growth but change.”

Effortlessly earnest, yet tongue in cheek, he aims it squarely at analytic philosophers who at worst believe that the efficacy of philosophy lies in solving problems, or in logical deduction, and at best believe that education ceases when one becomes a professional scholar. He is one of the few philosophers to single out philosophy as an education (taking place either within or without an institution), rather than sketching out what an educational theory should be (Putnam of all people highlighted this).

This is where a child’s experience comes into play, because to articulate an idea that philosophy is an education of grown-ups will suggest that the authentic philosopher is one who must admit to themselves that they need an education in adult life to ‘do’ philosophy. But such an education is not carried out for accreditation purposes, but one that requires an honest accreditation of oneself. In Sandra Laugier’s words “[t]o admit that I need an education is to admit that I don’t really know what I know, and in order to know this, I need a radical transformation.” And not just that, but that such an education in a child’s experience expresses change and surprising phenomena, not a steady path that matches the insights of an established set of educational norms and standards.

This, I think, harks back to what Graham as said a few times on what philosophy (philosophia) actually denotes: a love of wisdom, a love of what lies outside of oneself, without ever having access to it. Can’t we just admit that we’re all children, and relinquish the means to endlessly critique one another on who has access to the ‘best’ wisdom. This is why, for me at least, teaching is the most rewarding not when students ‘get’ the material, but when they happen to stumble across something the group hadn’t thought of before: something surprising that insinuates a collective education, where I realise that my knowledge is just as finite as theirs.

The Internet



COD philosophy


In an otherwise unremarkable and flaccid Guardian promo on next years iteration of the Call Of Duty (COD) franchise, I happened to spot this little unintentional gem.



Don’t you just hate it when once critical and edge names, are (unintentionally) used for something else? Or maybe I’ve just been writing this thesis for far too long.