What's wrong with Prometheanism?

Prometheus: mythical figure who stole fire from the gods

Simple questions of technological progress abound in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.

In response to our introduction to Murray Bookchin's philosophy of technology, a commenter asked:

888 wrote:
What's so bad about Prometheanism? Sounds good to me! Defying the gods, playing with fire, storming heaven...

This simple question actually raises a whole host of philosophical and political questions, so we're responding with a blog instead of a comment, as it's worth exploring properly. In our piece on Bookchin, we were seeking to present Bookchin's views, though of course, we also sought to recover and present those ideas we find most useful. When Bookchin criticises "Promethean, often crassly bourgeois Marxism", he is definitely not criticising technology or production per se. Rather, he is criticising the productivist, progressivist Marxism that sees the expansion of the productive forces (including technological development) as an inherent good.

In this respect, Bookchin is using the term as more or less the opposite of primitivist/anti-civilisation politics, which tends to see technology, civilisation, and the productive forces as inherently bad (and usually, as doomed to collapse, 'die off', and survivalist fantasies). Bookchin doesn't identify either technology per se with freedom (Prometheianism), nor with domination (primitivism). His usage is pretty much in line with the wikipedia version:

wikpedia wrote:
In the Western classical tradition, Prometheus became a figure who represented human striving, particularly the quest for scientific knowledge, and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences.

These unintended consequences are particularly clear in the ecological crisis, but also in social relations. Here, a brief detour into ontology may help elaborate the point. (Ontology is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality itself).

Levi Bryant wrote:
“Flat ontology” is basically synonymous with “atheism”, “naturalism”, and “materialism”. The point is that theism is not simply the thesis that a divine, supernatural being exists, but is rather a structure of thought that can come in both religious and secular variants. (...) In this regard, it follows that a thoroughgoing atheism– and I would argue that the work of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris are all secular theologies –has to do much more than show the non-existence of a divine, supernatural being.

According to Bryant, the vulgar new atheists do not challenge the hierarchical ontology of theological thought, they simply replace God with Man (invariably Man; or Reason, or Progress, or similar secularised Enlightenment virtues). So we could say that Prometheanism is to communism as Dawkins is to atheism, elevating Man (or technology, or the productive forces) to God's seat at the ontological table. It's interesting that for the communist heresies of the 16th and 17th centuries, the task wasn't so much to storm heaven, but to realise it immediately on Earth. This was certainly the case with the German peasant's war slogan omnia sunt communia (‘all things in common’; 1524-1525), and the Diggers' insistence that 'the Earth is a common treasury for all' (1649-1650). In the case of peasant communism, the danger of a conservative, agrarian, anti-technological politics is clearly visible. This kind of agrarian utopia is explicitly rejected by Bookchin, for what it's worth.


Does this matter? Who really argues for Prometheanism anyway, now that productivist orthodox Marxism is long dead? Well, aside from the soft 'Jobs and Growth' calls from the left, a recent, explicitly Promethean advocacy has come from the authors of the Accelerate Manifesto, who...

Accelerate Manifesto wrote:
...declare that only a Promethean politics of maximal mastery over society and its environment is capable of either dealing with global problems or achieving victory over capital.

They are keen to distinguish this notion of mastery from that of original Enlightenment thinkers, but only to the extent of replacing the clockwork universe of Laplace with complex systems theory, thus reformulating mastery in terms of probabilistic as opposed to certain judgements.1 The Accelerate Manifesto pillories critics as "the tired residue of postmodernity, decrying mastery as proto-fascistic or authority as innately illegitimate." This is caricature, of course, but the mention of authority is revealing. This, we suggest, is where Bookchin is useful. What does authority have to do with mastery of the environment? We're with Bakunin on authority, but this slippage is crucial. Bookchin suggests there's no domination over nature without domination over people. And sure enough, the Accelerate Manifesto insists that:

Accelerate Manifesto wrote:
the fetishisation of openness, horizontality, and inclusion of much of today’s ‘radical’ left set the stage for ineffectiveness. Secrecy, verticality, and exclusion all have their place as well in effective political action

Lest we be mistaken for postmodern spoilsports or inveterate hippies, we can highlight our objection here with recourse to the same source from which accelerationism draws – Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Accelerationism draws on a passage in the first volume, Anti-Oedipus. We draw attention to a passage in the second, A Thousand Plateaus. Here Deleuze and Guattari, like Bookchin, draw on the work of the anthropologist Pierre Clastres:

Deleuze and Guattari wrote:
There exist collective mechanisms that simultaneously ward off and anticipate the formation of a central power. The appearance of a central power is thus a function of a threshold or degree beyond which what is anticipated takes on consistency or fails to, and what is conjured away ceases to be so and arrives.2

In the language of complex systems theory then, not just any arbitrary configuration of technical forces, ecological processes and social relations is a stable one. There are thresholds or tipping points which tend to destabilise some configurations and stabilise others. Certain technologies reinforce processes of social stratification and instrumental ecology,3 others reinforce libertarian social forces and "a sense of haunting symbiosis" with ecological systems (Bookchin). The notion of mastery over nature is itself steeped in a colonial history, which historically has been inseparable from mastery over the natives:

Keith Pluymers wrote:
Despite observing differences in the flora and fauna in both places [America and Ireland], English writers imagined that these two environments were similar in one crucial respect: each was imperfect when under the control of its indigenous population but could be put to productive use if the English could reshape the landscape.4

If we must retain a concept of mastery (and it's not obvious that we should), it cannot be that of the secularised theology identified by Bryant. Rather:

Levi Bryant wrote:
A de-theologization of the concept of sovereignty would involve placing sovereignty not in the hands of a monarch or dictator, but in the hands of the multitude. That is the basic idea of both communism and anarchism.

But as we have argued, this has technological and ecological correlates. It can't simply result from an acceleration of existing capitalist technological dynamics and the seizure of God's throne by Man. In Deleuzian/complex systems terms, we're part of the social-ecological-technical assemblage and not its masters with an Archimedean standpoint outside it. An ecological mastery would be more like that involved in mastering a musical instrument than Enlightenment fantasies of dominating nature (which of course, includes Homo sapiens). You don't master an instrument by subjecting it to your will, but by integrating it into your capacities and you to its. This is a mastery of co-operation, not conquest. The problem with Prometheanism is not the enthusiasm for technology but the blindness to unintended consequences. Ecological thought can't risk such myopic vision.

Endnotes wrote:
In the course of struggles just as in any possible post-capitalist world, we will inevitably have to judge each specific technology by its “affordances”: will it help or not? What unintended side-effects might it have? How might it contribute to the shape of our actions? Will it be harmful or not? How will it change how other things work? Does it make any sense in the absence of specifically capitalist social forms? Is it a straightforward obstruction?5

Posted By

Out of the Woods
Mar 19 2014 07:27

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  • The problem with Prometheanism is not the enthusiasm for technology but the blindness to unintended consequences. Ecological thought can't risk such myopic vision.

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sometimes explode
Mar 19 2014 22:55

I would only add to the above that I think a key concept in moving from colonial mastery to instrumental mastery of the kind discussed above, a musicological instrumentality as opposed to an Adornian one, is found in Paulo Virno's Grammar of the Multitude. While I think that Virno ultimately belongs to those who betray materiality with the emphasis on immaterial production, and via the incredibly idealist formulations surrounding a politics of exodus, I nonetheless find his ideas around virtuosity quite interesting. If we augmented Virno's virtuosity with a proper appreciation of embodiment- which is, in part, why I would privilege dance among the arts. When virtuosity & embodiment meet choreographic practice & its realisation in dance are what come to mind for me: and dance is primarily a sensible mode of contact among and across bodies wherein the ecological relation is performed as such. In dance you can't reduce one body to another, and even the representational-master figure, the choreographer- is eliminable, and where the choreographer remains in place they still have to meet the bodies that will dance their vision... dance isn't determinable from the first instance or from above.

I think it's this choreographic model, with its kinesthetic meta-modelling, that exceeds the ocular-representational one of mastery. The master is whoever sees everything (thinking of the panopticon but also, more generally, of being "master of all He surveys", or of the God who watches from above)...the one puts speech above all other bodily expressions as the hierarchically dominant mode of mastering...if in doubt on this, see Lacan. The master is always the one who Sees and Speaks, the one who has perfect Attention and decides on the Naming of things. Mastery is all sight and speech, never eye and mouth.

Also, this blindness to unintended consequences is also part of the problem. This is why I keep returning to Virilio who, for all his reactionary and Catholic humanism, remains one of the most important thinkers of technology, scale and speed. Specifically in this context is his strikingly simple formulation of the accident: the necessary underside of Progress, the dangerous shadow of innovation. Virilio's clearest example is in terms of the car: when you invent the car, you necessarily, at the same time, invent the car crash. Later,Virilio began talking about an integral accident:

"The original industrial accidents as, for instance, the derailment of a train or the crash of an airplane, were all specific, localized, and particular accidents. They were taking place at a certain place and at a certain moment in time. Now, however, the revolution of instantaneous transmissions brought about by telecommunications makes the accident global. The Millennium Bug is no longer a local accident, but a global one - because it will involve everybody. I have called this type of accident a integral accident because it causes other accidents in its wake. Just like there has been a change in the nature of the accident somewhere in the eighteenth and nineteenth century - from the natural accident towards the industrial accident - we now witness a fresh transmutation of the accident: from the industrial accident to its post-industrial successor. This transmutation is accompanied by a very substantial increase in scale. The industrial accident is still the kind of event that "takes place." The post-industrial accident, on the other hand, goes beyond a certain place, you may say that it does no longer "take place," but becomes an environment. The disaster that befell the Titanic involved only its passengers; the Millennium Bug will involve everybody on this Earth". [In Interview,

Okay, so the Millenium Bug didn't come to pass, and Virilio could be left open to accusations of apocalypticism. But, for all that, the integral economic accident did come to pass, it's event dated to 2008 and it's afterlife, it's continued existence, being with us still now, like the radiation leaking from Fukushima, spreading across the ocean in the waters, into dietary proteins via the fish, from Japan to the shores of the United States and Canada. With Fukushima we have local incident with more or less localisable fields of impact...but with the financial crash we have a nonlocal accident occurring across spatial and temporal regions, with global results. As we enter the Anthropocene and begin to come to terms with the catastrophic time of its various destructive consequences, we witness a truly integral accident that really does threaten "every body on this Earth"... where 'every body' can't be reduced to Virilio's humanist insistence on bodies being those of our particular breed of hominid.

My own biggest gripe with accelerationism is the way it pretends to be the first political movement (or is it at this stage a meme?) that has noticed that capitalism has done some good things that we would like to keep, things like virology, bacteriology, digital technology etc. Who, other than some primitivist strawman, denies that kind of thing? Or, it wants to present every alternative to itself, its own reactivation of a kind of Marxist modernism, as the only thought that is thinking in big historical ways, that isn't mired in nostalgia and dreams of exodus and/or disappearance (either via regression or techno-transcedence via the singularity, the ultimate dream of "immaterial production"). Acclerationism returns us to a kind of Marxian hallucination of speed in which acceleration is codified as better, regardless of whether or not the physics of acceleration implies forward momentum; after all, slowing down isn't actually a "getting slower", it is an acceleration in reverse. At the same time it doesn't seem to take account of the need to weaponise what is to hand, that operate according to a pragmatic logic of tactical engagement that is nonetheless conditioned by a historical strategy. For me this has always been the strength of anarchism and autonomous Marxism: their willingness to capture infrastructre, to autonomise and organise the material that is at hand and to try and harness it to a vision of the new.

A couple of years ago Alberto Toscano delivered a paper on Prometheanism that took Simon Critchley's weak and depoliticised an-archism as the basis for its call for prometheus. Is that really the poverty of decision we're left with? This vapid either/or between mythological idols and the bloodless disappointment of liberal intellectuals? I rather think that when we reach the level of abstraction where that question can even appear as a question, we might be on the wrong tack. not to say that I have any problem with abstraction...but when its at this rarefied height...what exactly does it do for anyone?

Prometheus isn't about human liberation. Prometheus was the creator of man. Calls to Prometheus are calls for a master who would save us. Hence the invocation of "mastery", a mastery that occupies, and covers over, the empty space of the Master.

Just to add, if any one wants to read Levi's first book it is available for free here: http://openhumanitiespress.org/democracy-of-objects.html

His new book is out to buy here: http://www.amazon.com/Onto-Cartography-Ontology-Machines-Speculative-Rea...

and just to be arrogant, this is my initial engagement with the idea of ontocartography- a mapping of the flat ontology, or in Guattarian terms "plane of consistency": http://attemptsatliving.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/nihilist-optimism/

factvalue
Mar 20 2014 04:47

I like the discussion of Prometheus’ brother, Pandora’s husband Epimetheus in chapter seven of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society: http://en.bookfi.org/book/1092530

It isn’t abstraction that bothers me and I like a nice mathematical model as much as anyone. But in the blog article you linked to, by someone called Levi-Bryant, which you advertised as having a connection with ontology – given the appearance of ‘being’ in several places presumably this is that special, idiosyncratic variety of ‘ontology’ which sprang from the warped fascistic mind of Martin Heidegger alone up in his little mountain cabin in the black forest - the sentence immediately following the fairly sane first quotation you included reads ‘A thoroughgoing atheology would have to diagnose and overcome a particular theistic fractal pattern, a koch curve, that is pervasive throughout both religious and secular ontological, epistemological, political, and ethical thought.’ Could you possibly explain the reason for this random outburst of lunacy? Or for this: ‘In both the political and natural register being was conceived as a fully consistent system without knots, exceptions, or any form of incompleteness.’ Sorry..I thought..did someone just try to resurrect the corpse of fucked-up Lacanian psycho-socio-politica-differentio-topological knot theory right in front of me just then? Am I fucking dreaming or what? Is that stupid pseudo-intellectual-bullshit shit still going on? Why in the fuck did THAT exhumation take place?

I’d just finished re-reading Malatesta’s little pamphlet Anarchy, a font of lucid argumentation that pierces the state and capitalism with a poignantly simple and direct profundity of vision when immediately I had the misfortune to follow your link into the abyss. When the author of the linked blog writes ‘For a variety of formal reasons ranging from Goedel’s incompleteness theorems to Russell’s and Cantor’s paradoxes, this framework has increasingly become untenable. However, it’s problematic nature can also be seen at the level of concrete, lived politics,’ more is being claimed than mere suggestive analogy. By invoking timeless mathematical results the author hopes that the bizarre forms of masturbation on display in that blog thereby acquire a similar limitless generality. Unfortunately there is simply no connection between the results of mathematical logic and the ‘concrete, lived politics’ of the sociopolitical behaviour of human beings. Does that really need pointing out? Is this all it takes to make political science a science? Did you like the stupid language in that blog, which consisted of a few simple notions dressed up in a black forest gateau of jargon and gibberish? Did you think it was dead good? FFS get a grip of something other than your post-structuralist hermeneutic sexual organs. It’s really embarrassing, self-defeating and counter-revolutionary.

If you haven’t already read it then please, o please read this: http://en.bookfi.org/book/1454617

Out of the Woods
Mar 20 2014 07:54

Hi factvalue. I took the 'koch curve' reference, in conjunction with the mention of Laplace, to mean a self-similar ontology derived from a first cause (God, or a secular substitute), so if you zoom in on any aspect of reality you find the same structure of cascading causation, of active and passive entities. So you find man-nature binaries, nature-culture binaries, man-woman binaries, atheist-believer binaries, colonial-indigenous binaries etc. Maybe I'm just reading Bryant as an anarchist, but the fractal reference seems to say that if you found an ontology on hierarchy, it's hierarchical all the way down. The alternative being 'flat ontology', which is synonymous with atheism, materialism and naturalism.

But yeah, I have no idea about Lacanian graphs of sexuation, and would side with Sokal here unless given a good reason otherwise! Generally, if we quote someone it isn't a wholesale endorsement. Case in point: Deleuze and Guattari. The passage we quote seems like an important critique of traditional Marxist theory of the origins of the state/private property, one which preserves social agency and avoids a linear-stagist historiography. But there are definitely passages nearby in the same text, which even if meaningful, are indistinguishable from nonsense to my eyes. We also wouldn't agree with everything Endnotes say, even in the referenced piece, but the quote is pertinent.

@ sometimes explode: lots to think about there! I don't know the origins of accelerationism in terms of its political milieu, but it seems like an over-reaction against maybe Frankfurt School pessimism or something - 'fuck it, more tech! faster! accelerate! move aside, tedious pomos!'

factvalue
Mar 20 2014 12:29
Quote:
I took the 'koch curve' reference, in conjunction with the mention of Laplace, to mean a self-similar ontology derived from a first cause (God, or a secular substitute), so if you zoom in on any aspect of reality you find the same structure of cascading causation, of active and passive entities. So you find man-nature binaries, nature-culture binaries, man-woman binaries, atheist-believer binaries, colonial-indigenous binaries etc. Maybe I'm just reading Bryant as an anarchist, but the fractal reference seems to say that if you found an ontology on hierarchy, it's hierarchical all the way down. The alternative being 'flat ontology', which is synonymous with atheism, materialism and naturalism.

There's nothing wrong in principle with poetically transferring concepts between disconnected areas of knowledge or constructing metaphors if the result is not a surfeit of formalistic wordplay which may be viewed strictly as neither science nor poetry nor philosophy and which poses as 'theory' while possessing no discernible empirical basis beyond confirmation bias and serves only to obfuscate and derail class struggle.

Ontology is concerned with questions about the objects that exist in the world and the warranted assertions or factually correct statements which we can make about them. What precisely is a 'cascading causation' and how is it connected with 'active and passive entities' and how do you 'zoom in' on it?

By sacrificing a straightforward manner of expression in aiming to produce effects of an opacity that is neither particularly aesthetic nor entirely within the bounds of reason, both your interpretation and the original passage in the link unselfconsciously reproduce the hierarchy of the secular mysticism the Bryant blog purports to uncover and analyse.

factvalue
Mar 20 2014 12:53

I liked your Bookchin stuff btw but don't have enough time to adequately comment.

sometimes explode
Mar 20 2014 13:03

"'fuck it, more tech! faster! accelerate! move aside, tedious pomos!'"

Hahaha! Pretty much! ~

Factvalue- I've been reading & interacting with Levi for a while, he isn't a Heideggarian. Levi describes himself as Lacano-Deleuzian, a weird little compression until you think about Guattari's relation to both, who has worked as a Lacanian analyst. I agree this is the weaker aspect of his thought but I'm not sure its so easy as to write Lacan off entirely. He has interesting things to say about psychoanalysis, psychosis and speech... although most of it is worth reading in order to know what not to buy into.

As to the question of ontology and objects, Levi's ontology is one variety of what is known as Object-Oriented Ontology. He has actually been involved in some quite extensive arguments justifying the claim that objects exist and that they do so with some degree of autonomy from all their relations, a thesis that has been unpopular in both Continental & Analytic philosophy for a while.

It' might be worth having a look at his work to answer your questions on what all those terms mean. Although obviously it's pretty involved, the problem with philosophers always being that their work pre-supposes everyone has the time to read everything.

Out of the Woods
Mar 20 2014 13:43

factvalue, we're not going to defend the entire philosophical system or writing style of every thinker we quote. We didn't quote anything about fractals or Lacan, and we're not really interested in that. We're interested in 'what's wrong with Prometheanism', and Bryant's distinction between 'secular theologies' and 'flat ontology' seems to help substantiate Bookchin's claim that there's no domination of nature without domination of people.

If quoting someone who uses questionable mathematical metaphors and who may or may not have something to do with Heidegger means we're just secular mystics, well, we'll just have to disagree on that. Are we now vicariously responsible for Deleuze and Guattari's sometimes impenetrable prose too?

Out of the Woods
Mar 20 2014 21:13

Another angle on this: maybe it isn't clear the point we're making. The basic argument is:

Wanting to 'master' nature implies that nature is 'masterable', or that the world can be subjugated to will. This basically replaces God of traditional ontology with Man. The problem is that (a) the world doesn't work like that, and (b) this invariably involves the subjugation of people to other people in a great hierarchy of being (like in the colonial example).

Could we have made this argument without citing Bryant? Probably, but (a) we got it from him, so only seemed fair to credit, (b) the link to theology seemed apt, given the topic is Prometheus, a god, and (c) the comparison to the new atheists seemed to offer a relatively familiar analogy, since Dawkins is pretty famous and his shortcomings pretty well known.

Though perhaps by making the ontological argument, the fairly simple point that prometheanism has unintended social consequences is clouded?

sometimes explode
Mar 20 2014 21:58

When I first read the article I couldn't help think of Stirner on Feuerbach.

factvalue
Mar 20 2014 22:36

When I first read it I couldn't help thinking of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGQToJ9RR-4

factvalue
Mar 21 2014 00:55
Quote:
Another angle on this: maybe it isn't clear the point we're making. The basic argument is

Wanting to 'master' nature implies that nature is 'masterable', or that the world can be subjugated to will. This basically replaces God of traditional ontology with Man. The problem is that (a) the world doesn't work like that, and (b) this invariably involves the subjugation of people to other people in a great hierarchy of being (like in the colonial example).

Could we have made this argument without citing Bryant? Probably, but (a) we got it from him, so only seemed fair to credit, (b) the link to theology seemed apt, given the topic is Prometheus, a god, and (c) the comparison to the new atheists seemed to offer a relatively familiar analogy, since Dawkins is pretty famous and his shortcomings pretty well known.

Though perhaps by making the ontological argument, the fairly simple point that prometheanism has unintended social consequences is clouded?

Yes, the basic point you were making is throwaway trivial it’s just been made to seem much weightier by the immense effort involved in hoisting a huge mass of deranged and cryptic verbiage posing as philosophy up above the anarchist flag. The reverent exegesis of Bryant you have undertaken was also unnecessary because Prometheus was not actually a god, just a great big giant fella.

Quote:
We're interested in 'what's wrong with Prometheanism', and Bryant's distinction between 'secular theologies' and 'flat ontology' seems to help substantiate Bookchin's claim that there's no domination of nature without domination of people.

I don't think you need anything of Bryant's to back up anything of Bookchin's, and I don't believe old Murray would have appreciated his stuff being linked to a Lacanian Deleuzional.

Quote:
Are we now vicariously responsible for Deleuze and Guattari's sometimes impenetrable prose too?

Are you seriously proposing to support your decision to use this guy Bryant's meanderings by alluding to your decision to quote from these characters' A Thousand Platypuses? And why use euphemisms like 'sometimes impenetrable' when their vast effluvial splashes of ostentatious and superficial erudition contain neither logic nor sense for hundreds of pages at a time? I suppose if you're prepared to put a bit of work in you can occasionally detect the odd semblance of sanity but what value does an occasional accidental bit of reason have if engulfed by the surrounding completely meaningless discourse? This also goes in a minor way for Bryant but he can't compete with those awe inspiring geniuses of the absurd. This from their 1994 duet entitled - without the slightest hint of irony - What is Philosophy?:

'Now philosophy wants to know how to retain infinite speeds while gaining consistency, by giving the virtual a consistency specific to it. The philosophical sieve, as plane of immanence that cuts through the chaos, selects infinite movements of thought and is filled with concepts formed like consistent particles going as fast as thought. Science approaches chaos in a completely different, almost opposite way: it relinquishes the infinite, infinite speed, in order to gain a reference able to actualize the virtual. By retaining the infinite, philosophy gives consistency to the virtual through concepts; by relinquishing the infinite, science gives a reference to the virtual, which actualizes it through functions. Philosophy proceeds with a plane of immanence or consistency; science with a plane of reference.

In the case of science it is like a freeze-frame. It is a fantastic slowing down, and it is by slowing down that matter, as well as the scientific thought able to penetrate it with propositions, is actualized. A function is a Slow-motion. Of course, science constantly advances accelerations,
not only in catalysis but in particle accelerators and expansions that move galaxies apart. However, the primordial slowing down is not for these phenomena a zero-instant with which they break but rather a condition coextensive with their whole development. To slow down is to set a limit in chaos to which all speeds are subject, so that they form a variable determined as abscissa, at the same time as the limit forms a universal constant that cannot be gone beyond (for example, a maximum degree of contraction). The first functives are therefore the limit and the variable, and reference is a relationship between values of the variable or, more profoundly, the relationship of the variable, as abscissa of speeds, with the limit.'

This passage contains at least a dozen scientific terms used without rhyme or reason and the discourse oscillates between nonsense ('a function is a Slow-motion') and truisms ('science constantly advances accelerations'). Compared to this level of wacko, recent efforts by, for example, sometimes explodes the likes of:

Quote:
Acclerationism returns us to a kind of Marxian hallucination of speed in which acceleration is codified as better, regardless of whether or not the physics of acceleration implies forward momentum; after all, slowing down isn't actually a "getting slower", it is an acceleration in reverse. At the same time it doesn't seem to take account of the need to weaponise what is to hand, that operate according to a pragmatic logic of tactical engagement that is nonetheless conditioned by a historical strategy.

seem but pale reflections, although the intention is obviously there ('after all, slowing down isn't actually "getting slower", it is an acceleration in reverse'). Reading your own

Quote:
I took the 'koch curve' reference, in conjunction with the mention of Laplace, to mean a self-similar ontology derived from a first cause (God, or a secular substitute), so if you zoom in on any aspect of reality you find the same structure of cascading causation, of active and passive entities. So you find man-nature binaries, nature-culture binaries, man-woman binaries, atheist-believer binaries, colonial-indigenous binaries etc. Maybe I'm just reading Bryant as an anarchist, but the fractal reference seems to say that if you found an ontology on hierarchy, it's hierarchical all the way down. The alternative being 'flat ontology', which is synonymous with atheism, materialism and naturalism.

how much do you think the average punter would be turned on to the anarchy on being told such things? Another angle on this: is there a connection between this sort of thing and the moribund state of anarchism in the UK? Or again: is this really unintentional? Take me to your leader.

Out of the Woods
Mar 21 2014 06:53
factvalue wrote:
hoisting a huge mass of deranged and cryptic verbiage

Reminder that you're talking about this:

Bryant wrote:
“Flat ontology” is basically synonymous with “atheism”, “naturalism”, and “materialism”. The point is that theism is not simply the thesis that a divine, supernatural being exists, but is rather a structure of thought that can come in both religious and secular variants. (...) In this regard, it follows that a thoroughgoing atheism– and I would argue that the work of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris are all secular theologies –has to do much more than show the non-existence of a divine, supernatural being.

This is a very course distinction between flat and hierarchical ontology. It doesn't imply nor require a wholesale acceptance of Bryant's own system nor presentational style, which is neither presented, nor endorsed. For someone complaining about obfuscation, you're spilling a huge amount of words over this.

factvalue wrote:
This from their 1994 duet entitled - without the slightest hint of irony - What is Philosophy?

Right, and we're responsible for everything D&G ever said in any of their works, because we find their critique of Engels' stagism useful (a critique, which like Bookchin, draws on Clastres).

I'm afraid this is generating far more heat than light, so I'll leave it at that.

jolasmo
Mar 21 2014 09:13
Quote:
how much do you think the average punter would be turned on to the anarchy on being told such things?

There needs to be a rule that whenever someone uses this ludicrous "man on the street" argument to shit on ideas they don't like we all agree to instantly stop listening to anything they have to say. It's the only way were ever gonna shake it off.

Really do not see what factvalue's beef is here. I mean I enjoy a bit of pomo bashing as much as the next guy, but in this case it seems as though merely referencing these arguments is a bridge too far. I'm sorry, but surely it must be possible to maintain a harshly critical stance towards such academics but still appropriate useful material from them? How far would Marx have gotten with Capital had he simply dismissed e.g. the English Political Economists because of it's obvious theoretical shortcomings rather than critically assessing those aspects of their work which do have some merit in spite of the problematic nature of their theoretical project taken as a whole?

~J.

sometimes explode
Mar 21 2014 21:37
Quote:
seem but pale reflections, although the intention is obviously there ('after all, slowing down isn't actually "getting slower", it is an acceleration in reverse').

You want to take issue with that? That's a fairly basic statement of physics. Sure, so I have a kind of Theory style sometimes- sue me, I studied Theory at university & it left indelible marks, I also like playing with language a bit- but this is just straight up basic physics. Sure, I could have said "physics reminds us that slowing down is actually negative acceleration", but that seems a bit dull.

The crux of your argument seems to be that the language used is a obtuse. In D&G that is done on purpose, as is the hijacking of scientific terminology, and it is actually discussed a lot in their work.

I know the question of the "average punter" wasn't directed at me, but seeings as I'm used as some kind of symptom I think I have a right to reply. Who is this "average punter"? I mean really? Because the implication here is that neither myself nor any of the members of the OTW Collective could be considered "average". What are we then? Is average code for working class? Right, so we have to assume that workers are incapable of engaging with philosophy and theory? Wasn't this Lenin's assumption to..? Isn't it pretty much the justification for the existence of a vanguard?

If you mean "how will any of this be of use to working people who don't have time for theory", I suppose it won't have any use to them, unless they want to make it of use to them. Or are we supposed to be out proselytising for the church of anarchism? Is everything anarchists ever write supposed to be exclusively for a non-anarchist audience?

omen
Mar 22 2014 02:09

(This is about the discussion in the comments rather than this specific blog.)

(I am naturally assuming that Zizek is secretly an avid libcom reader.)

sometimes explode
Mar 22 2014 03:23

From the opening of Levi Bryant's new book:

Quote:
This books attempts a defense and renewal of materialism. This
is a defense and renewal needed in the face of critics and defenders
alike. On the side of the critics, materialism must be defended
against obscurantists that seek to argue that materialism is reductive,
mechanistic, and that there is something about human beings,
culture, thought, and society that somehow is other than the material.
However, it is perhaps the defenders of materialism that are
today the greater threat. Among Continental critical and social
and political theorists, we are again and again told that they’re
positions are “materialist,” only to see the materiality of matter up
and disappear in their analyses. In these discourses and theoretical
orientations, the term “materialism” has become so watered down
that it’s come to denote little more than “history” and “practice.”
It is certainly true that matter evolves and develops and therefore
has a history, and practices such as building houses engage with
matter. Unfortunately, under the contemporary materialism, following
from a highly selective reading of Marx, “history” has
largely come to mean discursive history, and practice has come to
mean discursive practices. History became a history of discourses,
how we talk about the world, the norms and laws by which societies
are organized, and practices came to signify the discursive
practices – through the agency of the signifier, performance, narrative,
and ideology – that form subjectivities. Such a theory of
society was, of course, convenient for humanities scholars who
wanted to believe that the things they work with – texts – make
up the most fundamental fabric of worlds and who wanted to
believe that what they do and investigate is the most important
of all things. Material factors such as the amount of calories a
person gets a day, their geographical location (e.g., whether or not
they’re located in a remote region of Alaska), the rate at which
information can be transferred through a particular medium, the
effects of doing data entry for twelve hours a day, whether or not
people have children, the waste output of travel, computing, how
homes are heated, the way in which roads are laid out, whether or
not roads are even present, the morphogenetic effects of particular
diets, and many things besides completely fell off the radar. With
the “materialist” turn in theory, matter somehow completely
evaporated and we were instead left with nothing but language,
culture, and discursivity.

It's this side of Bryant's work that makes it important in the world of theory, even if in more pragmatic worlds this stuff has always been the main focus (certainly in nursing, all of this would be part of a routine patient assessment). The point is though that he- and others like him- aren't reducible to the stale cliches of postmodernism and immaterialism. In the end it was because I was training as a nurse when I discovered Levi's blog that I started reading him in the first place.

factvalue
Mar 30 2014 17:48

I’ve been away from the internet for two weeks so apologies for the late response.

Out of the Woods wrote:

Quote:
For someone complaining about obfuscation, you're spilling a huge amount of words over this.

Again, it isn’t the quantity, it’s the clarity that matters. I was complaining about the use of copious quantities of pompous, spooky language for the purpose of giving fatuous babble an aura of profundity in anarchist circles because that kind of thing has been one of hierarchy’s spectres and instruments, used to intimidate people throughout history, appearing most obviously for example in the ends/means immanence of Statism and labyrinthine legalistic gibberish.

Out of the Woods wrote:

Quote:
I'm afraid this is generating far more heat than light, so I'll leave it at that.

Your incandescence and unwillingness to enter into genuine, extended dialogue has not gone unnoticed. If a bit of criticism bothers you so much that you dig your heals in and throw a hissy fit then maybe blogging isn't for you (plural?)? FWIW Bryant has the same tendencies from what I’ve read so you’ve chosen well, at least I can’t think of any other reason why anyone would seek him out as an authority on ontology. Perhaps instead of a blog you could take out an advert in a newspaper or do a bit of flyposting or make a sticker featuring a rousing slogan, "Smash All Koch Ontologies!" or Bryant’s own unforgettable “The site of politics is a ‘dim object’!” could ignite the whole austerity powder keg.

jolasmo wrote:
"There needs to be a rule.."

- right because more bureaucracy is never a bad thing, absolutely by all means another rule. In the other legal precedent you’ve advertised, with regard to the parallel you attempted to draw between anarchists using flaky ‘philosophical’ gibberish and Marx critiquing English political economists, for a start I rather think that Marx had thoroughly read, analysed and meditated long and hard on his sources and knew what they were talking about, partly through being Marx, partly because the political economists you mention used English for the purpose of communicating ideas. How did Marx actually make use of that revolting idiot Ricardo’s feeble notions? Did he really just cherry pick any bits he was fond of in order to give his own ideas an air of profundity (or ontology) in the way OTW seem to have done?

How far should we go with this? Should anarchists be using von Mises’ stuff if the occasional paragraph seems to back up what we say, whatever the premises, whatever its empirical status? I wouldn’t want to deny anyone the right to speculate on metaphysics or ontology to their heart’s content and this is not to say that there’s no room for a priori argument and pure conceptual construction in these areas (though I doubt that whatever it is Bryant and co. have been doing has anything to do with either) but that it is illegitimate to infer substantive conclusions about what exists from arguments about relations between concepts in the way Speculative Realists or their Object-Oriented Ontology subdisciples do. Where is their reality check? Are we just lawyers, quoting anyone and anything to build our case?

If you discover gross incompetence, lack of rigour or dishonesty in an otherwise unimportant section of someone’s work is it weirdly unnatural to want to at least examine the rest of the work with more caution, particularly if the section in question employed a piece of mathematics or physics well outside its domain of applicability with no apparent intellectual goal in mind apart from impressing a presumably scientifically uninitiated humanities audience?

There ought to be a new rule that if you are going to use a piece of mathematics or physics you have to thoroughly explain it and all its technical terms, rather than just saying things like

Bryant wrote:

Quote:
In both the political and natural register being was conceived as a fully consistent system without knots, exceptions, or any form of incompleteness. For a variety of formal reasons ranging from Goedel’s incompleteness theorems to Russell’s and Cantor’s paradoxes, this framework has increasingly become untenable. However, it’s problematic nature can also be seen at the level of concrete, lived politics. Whether we’re talking about colonialist forms of brutality that simultaneously spoke of universal human rights while treating non-European native populations as lower than animals, or certain socialist movements that claimed to be pursuing universal suffrage while nonetheless treating only industrial workers as genuine subjects, thereby excluding women and minorities, or the manner in which gay theory and political struggle often excludes other queer orientations, again and again we see a “pan-logicism” (identification of thought and being in a pre-existent norm/s) that claims to count everyone, while nonetheless being based on a set of constitutive exclusions.

without so much as a “by your leave I think I’ll have to insist on beginning to chat ridiculous voodoo bullshit right in front of you in broad daylight but you’re not to notice”

Another handy rule might be that since mathematics employs very precise meanings then it should not be used in prose-poetical Continental Philosophy contexts in which (despite CP’s unbelievably ironic label ‘Theory’) metaphysics and ontology are never pursued in any properly theoretical way but tailored purely for some preconceived political end, and where, for example, just as in a good poem in which content and form are inextricably entwined, the metaphysics and ontology are inseparable from their idiosyncratic expression (“différance”, “Dasein” et cetera et cetera ad libitum ad nauseam).

I mean why do ‘Theorists’ need precision anyway? Surely the relative absence from Continental Philosophy of the traditional theoretical apparatus of elucidations, distinctions, justifications and objections and the overabundance of a-theoretical or anti-theoretical modes of writing in all their unsurveyable variety, writing which is, through and through, expressive, declamatory, allusive, hagiographic, programmatic, metaphorical and so on, means that precision is not only irrelevant but potentially lethal to this mallarky?

O fuck it let’s add a rule about not quoting ‘philosophers’ whose work you don’t understand because it’s just a load of nonsense.

sometimes explodes wrote:

Quote:
...after all, slowing down isn't actually "getting slower", it is an acceleration in reverse

Quote:
I could have said "physics reminds us that slowing down is actually negative acceleration", but that seems a bit dull

For your second statement, which according to you is the less interesting (it is entirely banal but possesses the advantage of actually meaning something and being physically correct) you have removed the clause from your more ‘theoretically’ interesting first statement, which was concerned with claiming that slowing down has ‘actually’ no connection with “getting slower”, which was in fact what rendered it meaningless .. in that it doesn’t even qualify it as being ..you know ..banal.

But that was only a small segment of the section of your post that I quoted. Here is all of it again:

Quote:
Acclerationism returns us to a kind of Marxian hallucination of speed in which acceleration is codified as better, regardless of whether or not the physics of acceleration implies forward momentum; after all, slowing down isn't actually a "getting slower", it is an acceleration in reverse. At the same time it doesn't seem to take account of the need to weaponise what is to hand, that operate according to a pragmatic logic of tactical engagement that is nonetheless conditioned by a historical strategy.

The last sentence looks like it has been written by a joke online CP sentence generator. Confining myself to the bit beginning ‘regardless of whether or not the physics of acceleration implies forward momentum’ the use of the catch-all ‘physics’ here immediately sounds the alarm. If an object is taken as having constant mass then its rate of change of momentum with respect to time can be factored separately into a mass term and a term known as the acceleration, so acceleration is a derivative quantity applicable only in this special case - the physics resides in the deeper concept, in the momentum and not as you seem to be implying in the acceleration.

It looks like all you mean is that accelerations can be negative as well as positive and that it’s possible for a speed to be very high but in a negative direction, which I am assuming means something else to you but anyway. This is true, accelerations are ‘vectors’ with both size and direction and their direction can change sign. This is in contrast to the other physics word you invoked, the speed, which is just a number with no direction, a ‘scalar’. I’m still not sure how any of this is relevant to anything in particular but since you are discussing these words in the context of their use by D ‘n’ G acolytes just to clarify: you do know that even if the acceleration is negative, a lower momentum (“slowing down” or “getting slower”) does not mean the same thing as a negative momentum, don’t you? Anyway a negative acceleration will definitely result in an ‘object’ as they say “getting slower.”

So what was the purpose of this metaphorical ramble? Aren’t analogies and metaphors supposed to help clarify matters? What’s the point of invoking scientific concepts even metaphorically that you clearly have only a shaky grasp of while addressing an audience largely made up of non-scientists if it isn’t to make the banal sound profound? And by the way, it was a little bit disingenuous of you to straightforwardly deny that Bryant is a Heideggerian when he got into ‘Speculative Realism’ through his enthusiasm for the work of Graham Harman, a thoroughgoing Heideggerian.

sometimes explodes wrote:

Quote:
The crux of your argument seems to be that the language used is a obtuse. In D&G that is done on purpose, as is the hijacking of scientific terminology, and it is actually discussed a lot in their work.

And do they discuss it in their routine special private language like deranged identical twins (in which, for example, ‘difference’ is neither numerical nor qualitative (?)) and thereby render what they are pretending to say utterly meaningless? If they were going to pretend that the ‘texts’ they vomited up were supposed to belong to some sort of identifiable theoretical enterprise then why did they disguise their shimmering profundities so completely as fucked-up pseudo-scientific blather worthy of a drunken maniac and then refuse to defend what they appeared to be saying? They were fairly soixanthuitard weren’t they, maybe they just took too much of the good acid?

sometimes explodes wrote:

Quote:
I know the question of the "average punter" wasn't directed at me, but seeings as I'm used as some kind of symptom I think I have a right to reply. Who is this "average punter"? I mean really? Because the implication here is that neither myself nor any of the members of the OTW Collective could be considered "average". What are we then? Is average code for working class? Right, so we have to assume that workers are incapable of engaging with philosophy and theory? Wasn't this Lenin's assumption to..? Isn't it pretty much the justification for the existence of a vanguard?

You’re right I should have been more precise. Nothing shows less respect for the reader than the disruption of clarity, apart from the deliberate destruction of clarity in the cause of simple-minded charlatanism and chicanery.

You seem to be simultaneously having your cake ‘..the implication here is that neither myself nor any of the members of OTW could be considered “average”’ and eating it ‘Is everything anarchists ever write supposed to be exclusively for a non-anarchist audience?’ So are OTW and yourself just (“average”?) workers enjoying a bit of a natter about onto-cartography, or not? It’s probably totally irrelevant but what are the annual incomes of the parents of most philosophy grad students as compared to the rest of the population? Are there philosophy departments in the U.S, England, France, Germany, and Australia with tenured professors from low income backgrounds proportionately representing the world’s many gender and ethnic populations? Not that they don’t deserve their jobs but there really are class issues here just like there are everywhere.

And I don’t know about you – and I don’t think I’m alone here – but I’ve met quite a few anarchists who would neither understand a word of ‘Theory’ (and why would they when in the case of ‘Object-Oriented Ontology’ it’s mostly just lame juxtapositions of different parts of the culture plus a few neologisms wanked obliquely together at microwave frequencies into electromagnetic ripples?) or give a shit, since object-oriented textual criticism/poetry isn’t a central issue in class struggle any more than subject-disoriented lobster sniffing/ballet is and that’s because neither is a particularly revolutionary pastime, so witnessing anarchists wasting their energy on either tends to make them look a wee bit demented to those of us objects whose orientation lies outside CP bubbles.

Bryant wrote:

Quote:
For example, despite his avoid atheism (I’m not sure of this is neologism or misprint and couldn’t be bothered to check but it makes little difference in CP), I take it that Laplace’s thought is a variant of theistic structure due to the position he grants to the observer in his imaginary thought experiment designed to defend determinism. In imagining a completely deterministic universe, Laplace invites us to imagine an ideal observer that is above and outside of all being and that knows the trajectory, velocity, and position of every particle that composes existence.

Leaving aside the fact that the position and velocity are the trajectory, it is difficult to believe that this is truly able to pass itself off as any form of thinking, let alone philosophy. Bryant alleges that Pierre-Simon de Laplace’s device of imagining a being able to keep track of the momenta and positions of every particle in the universe means he’s a secular god-botherer i.e. Laplace’s method of carrying out a thought experiment in which these two conjugate variables (did you see the bit where I came?) position and momentum, which are necessary for the complete description of the motion of a classical particle and in principle known simultaneously and with infinite accuracy within Newtonian physics, actually do become available to some imaginary entity (hello! thought experiment) for all particles everywhere at some instant of time and then reasoning rather straightforwardly that the laws of Newtonian physics would in such a case in principle allow all future motions to be predicted, laying bare the nature of Newtonian physics itself as he saw it, that this was ‘isomorphic’ (yawn) with…theism. Without knowing it – and without knowing any science - Bryant is in fact alleging that classical mechanics has the same formal structure as a religion (whatever that means)….yyyeah ok.

Bryant wrote:

Quote:
Structurally this is identical to the position of God in traditional theisms, such that we can assert an isomorphism between Laplace’s thought and these theisms. In short, Laplace presents us with a secular theology.

QED! Laplace published Traite de mecanique celeste, his work removing god from Newton’s system, in the years between 1799 and 1825. Newton had admitted that some seeming irregularities in the movements of the planets had defied all his attempts to explain them. For example the orbit of Saturn was continually, however leisurely, expanding so that if unchecked, it must in the course of a few billion years leave the solar system. And the orbits of Jupiter and the moon were slowly shrinking, so that in the fullness of time Jupiter must be absorbed into the sun and our moon catastrophically swallowed up by the earth. Newton had concluded that god himself must intervene, now and then, to correct such cascading causalities but many astronomers had rejected this desperate hypothesis as outlawed by the nature and principles of science. Laplace showed that these irregularities were due to influences that corrected themselves periodically and that a little patience - in Jupiter's case 929 years - would see everything automatically returning to order. He concluded that there was no reason why the solar and all stellar systems should not continue to operate on the laws of Newton and Laplace ‘til the end of time.

It was a majestic and dismal conception - the world as a machine, doomed to go on tracing the same diagrams in the sky forever. It had immense influence in promoting a mechanistic view of mind as well as matter, and along with Darwin it undermined Christian theology; God, as Laplace told Napoleon, wasn't necessary after all. Modern dynamical systems theory has modified these many-body results but then Laplace of course was no dogmatist. "That which we know is a little thing; that which we do not know is immense," he once said. How evocative of Mr Bryant’s grasp of science that is.

The radioactive count rate after Chernobyl was a hundred times that produced by all nuclear testing from 1945 ‘til 1998. Chernobyl has caused a million deaths worldwide. Fukushima produced ten thousand times the Cernobyl count rate. It’s as if there’s just been a nuclear war in the Pacific. I don’t think you need any of Bryant’s ghoulish ‘theoretical’ body parts to justify a growing awareness of the dangers of a scientific world religion which can propose a reactor on Anglesey after something like that.

With respect to that bit of word-golf in which you proposed that asking for clearly expressed arguments relevant to class struggle on a libertarian communist website implies that I’ve betrayed an underlying vanguardist attitude to (average?) ‘workers’, if you were serious about this and not just retaliating then you need to put away the CP books for a little while comrade ‘cause that’s phantasmagorical, delirious and agonising sophistry. On the other hand, do what you like with your time, it isn’t harming anybody after all, so who am I to say? Everyone needs a hobby. I just don’t feel that it furthers the destruction of capitalism, hierarchy, gets us any nearer to regaining the means of existence etc. but if you like it then go for it. Sure why not? On the other hand, according to philosopher of science James Ladyman,

‘One of the biggest problems facing the arts and humanities is the prevalence of people who think they are engaging with philosophical ideas when in fact they wouldn't get through the first year of a philosophy degree because of their inability to make themselves clear, to formulate an argument, to separate an epistemological from an ontological issue, and so on. The same narcissism that makes Sokal's targets think that they are saying deep things about topology, non-linear dynamics, relativity, quantum mechanics and mathematical logic, makes their acolytes believe that if the philosophers they encounter are unimpressed by crude and ill-informed forays into philosophy, this is symptomatic of the narrowness of analytic philosophy as it clings to an outdated modernist/enlightenment paradigm. It is particularly galling that the flaky end of academia regards itself as the vanguard of political progressiveness, and that it is so ready to accuse its critics of defending some imagined hegemony. As Sokal points out repeatedly, without a culture that defends the importance of rigour, reason and evidence, there is little to stand in the way of the naked exercise of power.’

sometimes explode
Apr 26 2014 12:55
factvalue wrote:
For your second statement, which according to you is the less interesting (it is entirely banal but possesses the advantage of actually meaning something and being physically correct) you have removed the clause from your more ‘theoretically’ interesting first statement, which was concerned with claiming that slowing down has ‘actually’ no connection with “getting slower”, which was in fact what rendered it meaningless .. in that it doesn’t even qualify it as being ..you know ..banal.

The second sentence just read more boringly to me. I've read a lot of French theory and its literary style has seeped into my writing. That can be a problem, and I don't really like to write that way but it has become my default setting. I'm trying to combat it, and I'm aware some of what I've posted on here can be full of that kind of language (against the libcom style guide) but hey, it is a question of style...and not much else.

The original paragraph that you referred to does have problems, sure. With the mention of momentum, that you go into a good detail of explaining, I probably just meant movement or motion. Seems to me a better way to criticise that might have been to point out I'd chosen the wrong term and then I could have just edited the text to reflect that.

The original paragraph was also part of a criticism of the Marxist theory of accelerationism. It might have been fairer to read it in relation to accelerationist ideas, which do make a big deal out of slowing down, out of the Benjaminian idea of revolution being an act of "applying the breaks". In relation to accelerationism the point behind my banal point is that slowing down isn't just a simple action of going slower, as if going slower were something one achieved by will. When I'm talking about acceleration in reverse I mean both that you can have negative acceleration in physical terms and more theoretically that the question of speed can't be posed as if the concept of speed was necessarily always coupled to a forward motion that can be read a a liberatory progress. This is what the accelerationists mean at root with their metaphor (it isn't my metaphor at all): to accelerate capitalism is to speed capitalist development up is to necessarily liberate the means of production from the capitalist constraints, which you could pose here as a speed-limit.

But I was also trying to allude to the kind of backwards acceleration that is used by aircraft when they've landed and are trying to stop. The thrust of the engine is channelled to the front of the aircraft instead of to the aft. This is a slowing down, a deceleration, that doesn't involve a limit to force, or a slackening, that the image of "slowing down" assumes. When the accelerationists criticise going slowly they are criticising an image of lassitude, laziness, sensuality, or what Bifo sometimes calls senility. So the point here is that there are forms of acceleration that still involve the application of force. The aircraft doesn't simply through on the break or let itself wind down through loss of energy; it uses energy, redirects propulsion in order to achieve it. I could probably have said this in the original text- and I will perhaps go and add it in for clarity- but I didn't think I would need to say it at the time.

My point, and I guess I could also be clearer on this, but I think by writing so its not always clear to me what I'll be writing, is also that there is a weird poverty in the way accelerationism thinks of speed and acceleration.

As to the banality of the point. I agree. But its a criticism. If the criticism of accelerationism includes banal objections this might be to do with accelerationism itself.

Quote:
since you are discussing these words in the context of their use by D ‘n’ G acolytes

While accelerationism has its roots in D&G the current crop of accelerationists- the ones who actually go by that name- aren't GD&G acolytes. Some of them are very critical of D&G, some are less so. Its true that D&G spoke of "accelerating the process" but this doesn't make anyone who talks about acceleration or accelerationism into an "acolyte". Again, why the use of "acolyte"? Accelerationists are many things but they aren't priests to a Deleuzo-Guattarian religion, largely because no such thing exists.

I'd also want to say at this point, because you go on to discuss it below- esp. with Sokal- that when philosophers, among whom I don't include myself, use scientific concepts they aren't always doing so in order to use them in a scientific way. Sometimes they do.Other times they use scientific terms for philosophical purposes. This is an act of repurposing. It is completely legitimate.

Quote:
the use of the catch-all ‘physics’ here immediately sounds the alarm

In your replies you talk about philosophy, theory, and continental philosophy. I could just as well argue these are set off alarm bells. Even more so as you make incredibly sweeping claims about them, like continental philosophy's rejection of elucidations and so on. But I won't do that because I'm going to assume that for the purposes of this discussion you're using these terms as short-hand...a bit like I did when I said "the physics of acceleration", or whatever it was. Let's try and keep in mind these are blog posts, not books.

Quote:
The last sentence looks like it has been written by a joke online CP sentence generator.

Again, I have a problem with a particular style. The fact that I also write elsewhere for a theory audience makes this harder to shake when I'm writing here. But saying that I've written like a CP generator...I'm not sure what this is meant to achieve other than trying to insult me.

Quote:
acceleration is a derivative quantity applicable only in this special case - the physics resides in the deeper concept, in the momentum and not as you seem to be implying in the acceleration

You should write a critique of accelerationism. More seriously, sure I got some stuff wrong here, okay. But at the same time, and this goes back to the use of concepts outside their original context, I'm not sure this criticism works. When we're talking about accelerating capitalism it doesn't make much sense to say- "oh hey, but you are getting this all wrong, first we have to talk about the momentum of capitalism". The momentum of capitalism is its forward motion, yeh? And the accelerationists are crying for a speeding-up of the processes and relations that constitute it. But capitalism doesn't really move. If you try to literalise a metaphor then you're losing its metaphorical potencies. It stops being a metaphor. So I accept that you're right about acceleration and momentum... but when we use these terms in a political context we aren't deploying them as terms describing the reality of objects in space.

Quote:
So what was the purpose of this metaphorical ramble? Aren’t analogies and metaphors supposed to help clarify matters? What’s the point of invoking scientific concepts even metaphorically that you clearly have only a shaky grasp of while addressing an audience largely made up of non-scientists if it isn’t to make the banal sound profound?

Maybe this is clearer now. Or maybe I'm just trying to make the banal sound profound. Or maybe concepts have multiple uses. Or maybe you are asking that no one use words like "speed" without first of all clarifying and constricting their meaning to that used in kinematics? Or perhaps that only masters of conceptual language be allowed to use that language?

Quote:
it was a little bit disingenuous of you to straightforwardly deny that Bryant is a Heideggerian when he got into ‘Speculative Realism’ through his enthusiasm for the work of Graham Harman, a thoroughgoing Heideggerian.

Except it wasn't. Bryant isn't a Heideggarian. This is just obvious. Also, if I got into architecture because of a particular building, would that make the building an architect? If that's unfair then what about the actual case. I got into psychological theory through Freud, does that make me a Freudian? And here I could make a point about people having shaky understandings...

Quote:
And do they discuss it in their routine special private language like deranged identical twins (in which, for example, ‘difference’ is neither numerical nor qualitative (?)) and thereby render what they are pretending to say utterly meaningless? If they were going to pretend that the ‘texts’ they vomited up were supposed to belong to some sort of identifiable theoretical enterprise then why did they disguise their shimmering profundities so completely as fucked-up pseudo-scientific blather worthy of a drunken maniac and then refuse to defend what they appeared to be saying? They were fairly soixanthuitard weren’t they, maybe they just took too much of the good acid?

Mmm, yeh, good point. You don't like it/understand it so its obviously nonsense.

Quote:
simple-minded charlatanism and chicanery.

Oh cool, more insults.

Quote:
So are OTW and yourself just (“average”?) workers enjoying a bit of a natter about onto-cartography, or not? I

Firstly, the scare quotes and question mark around average in the above are a bit silly; "average punter" was the term you introduced to this thread, so the question needs to be directed at yourself. Which leads to the second point I want to make.

I can't speak of OTW but I am indeed a worker. I don't say average because I'm not sure what that would mean. However, I am happy to say that I do a lot of the things the working classes are meant to do when other people speak of "the average man on the street" (a simulated idea that is supposed to generate what it talks about). As it says in the blurb to my own blog I am a nurse. So yes, I am precisely a worker who is enjoying a bit of a natter about onto-cartography. I have to apologise if my discourse isn't up to scratch.

By the way, you also accuse me of trying to have my cake and eat it. This is odd because you seem to be saying that I and OTWs are one of two things: we're either a) workers, or b) not workers. This is implied by the snide comment that we couldn't be workers and enjoy onto-cartography. But this assumes that workers can't or shouldn't talk about onto-cartography. Why? Because they're incapable?

Meanwhile you have a problem with me asking if everything written on this site has to be for a n exclusively non-anarchist audience. I don't get it. Seriously. You go on to write about philosophers and their pay and how this relates to class. All very well and good. Except that Levi works for a community college, something other writers have actually used to shame him with before. That isn't the big bucks. Okay, so he isn't a prole-as-thou. So?

Quote:
And I don’t know about you – and I don’t think I’m alone here – but I’ve met quite a few anarchists who would neither understand a word of ‘Theory’

Yup. And I've met plenty that do.

Quote:
Object-Oriented Ontology’ it’s mostly just lame juxtapositions of different parts of the culture plus a few neologisms wanked obliquely together at microwave frequencies into electromagnetic ripples?) or give a shit, since object-oriented textual criticism/poetry isn’t a central issue in class struggle any more than subject-disoriented lobster sniffing/ballet is and that’s because neither is a particularly revolutionary pastime, so witnessing anarchists wasting their energy on either tends to make them look a wee bit demented to those of us objects whose orientation lies outside CP bubbles.

see my reply to your D&G comments. I mean. Yeh.

I won't reply to what you've said about Bryant's work. I'm no Bryant.

As to the idea that I'm accusing you of elitism because you want clear expression. no, not because you want clear expression...which is entirely correct ... but because you seem to think no one who reads this site would be capable of understanding anything but.

Quote:
As Sokal points out repeatedly, without a culture that defends the importance of rigour, reason and evidence, there is little to stand in the way of the naked exercise of power.’

Ignoring your other insults, I'd agree with Sokal. But I don't think this means you have to abandon theory. On this I'd recommend looking at the Zizek-Chomsky spat (or at least before it degenerated into nonsense). To summarise: yeh, cos rigorous argument and evidence alone have destroyed power and capitalism so far, right?

And yeh, maybe the article you were quoting from wasn't for you. I dunno.

sometimes explode
Apr 26 2014 12:56

Actually, to add something, I also don't see how this conversation helps to overcome capitalism either.

factvalue
Jul 1 2014 13:20

but hey, it is a question of style...and not much else.

Of course, unless ‘style’ replaces or obliterates content or covers up for lack of content.

Seems to me a better way to criticise that might have been to point out I'd chosen the wrong term and then I could have just edited the text to reflect that.

I wouldn’t encourage anyone to hijack any specialised language intended for an entirely different purpose because I believe metaphors should be an aid to clarity and not to opacity:

The original paragraph was also part of a criticism of the Marxist theory of accelerationism. It might have been fairer to read it in relation to accelerationist ideas, which do make a big deal out of slowing down, out of the Benjaminian idea of revolution being an act of "applying the breaks". In relation to accelerationism the point behind my banal point is that slowing down isn't just a simple action of going slower, as if going slower were something one achieved by will. [Come on! This is your clarification?] When I'm talking about acceleration in reverse I mean both that you can have negative acceleration in physical terms and more theoretically that the question of speed can't be posed as if the concept of speed was necessarily always coupled to a forward motion that can be read a a liberatory progress. This is what the accelerationists mean at root with their metaphor (it isn't my metaphor at all): to accelerate capitalism is to speed capitalist development up is to necessarily liberate the means of production from the capitalist constraints, which you could pose here as a speed-limit.

But I was also trying to allude to the kind of backwards acceleration that is used by aircraft when they've landed and are trying to stop. The thrust of the engine is channelled to the front of the aircraft instead of to the aft. This is a slowing down, a deceleration, that doesn't involve a limit to force, or a slackening, that the image of "slowing down" assumes. When the accelerationists criticise going slowly they are criticising an image of lassitude, laziness, sensuality, or what Bifo sometimes calls senility. So the point here is that there are forms of acceleration that still involve the application of force. [Again, there are no other forms of acceleration – why use metaphors based on a terminology and a subject which you don’t understand?] The aircraft doesn't simply through on the break or let itself wind down through loss of energy; it uses energy, redirects propulsion in order to achieve it. I could probably have said this in the original text- and I will perhaps go and add it in for clarity [very witty] - but I didn't think I would need to say it at the time. [I’m sorry but you’ve interfered with your own signal so much by this point that there’s almost nothing left to understand.]

Are you sort of saying this:

Scientific Marxism’s claim to a special understanding of history and its vision of a single linear history were also viewed with a good deal of scepticism. For Bakunin, Marx’s view of history led him to treat the horrors of the past as necessary evils, rather than simply as evils, and to assume that the events of history were necessary for the cause of ultimate emancipation and therefore progressive. This prevented him from seeing that history did not simply move forward but often moved backward or sideways. It was full of accidents and tragedies, and even the forces of production did not inexorably expand over time. (page 96 ... [i]Black Flame).[/i]

I agree with this. And also with this (from the same lovely, clear source):

The achievement of a powerful industrial base is meaningless in itself. Indeed, unless the majority of people benefit directly, by having their scope for individuality and ability to meet their needs increased, it may even be a retrograde move. Given the class character of capitalism, the rise of newly industrialised countries really means the rise of powerful new ruling classes; it is by no means a necessary step toward popular emancipation. That a previously oppressed country develops into a world power would, in other words, not break the cycle of class rule but simply reproduce it in new ways.

Kropotkin, Berkman, and Rocker developed another argument against the need for a capitalist stage. Capitalism continually created obstacles to the realisation of human creativity and productivity through alienating work, low wages, unequal education, the use of new technologies to maximise profits and cut labour costs, economic crises, and unequal economic development within and between countries. This crippled the creativity and capacities of the popular classes.

An anarchist society, on the other hand, would achieve great advances in technology and scientific knowledge as labour was emancipated, work restructured, and a "general scientific education" was provided to all, "especially the learning of the scientific method, the habit of correct thinking, the ability to generalise from facts and make more or less correct deductions." This would provide the basis for an emancipatory technology and a prosperous society, created by the popular classes rather than inherited from the old ruling class. It was not necessary to wait for capitalism to create the material basis for freedom; freedom would create its own material basis.

While accelerationism has its roots in D&G the current crop of accelerationists- the ones who actually go by that name- aren't GD&G acolytes. Some of them are very critical of D&G, some are less so. Its true that D&G spoke of "accelerating the process" but this doesn't make anyone who talks about acceleration or accelerationism into an "acolyte". Again, why the use of "acolyte"? Accelerationists are many things but they aren't priests to a Deleuzo-Guattarian religion, largely because no such thing exists.

I think it might be the superabundance of spooky language they employ that reminded me of Rocker’s description of Marx’s historical laws as "a system of political and social astrology…of no greater significance than the claim of those wise women who pretend to be able to read the destinies of man in teacups or in the lines of the hand."

I'd also want to say at this point, because you go on to discuss it below- esp. with Sokal- that when philosophers, among whom I don't include myself, use scientific concepts they aren't always doing so in order to use them in a scientific way. Sometimes they do.Other times they use scientific terms for philosophical purposes. This is an act of repurposing. It is completely legitimate

That depends on what you understand by the word ‘philosopher’.

a bit like I did when I said "the physics of acceleration", or whatever it was

In any serious discussion about the (mis)use of words, the precise words you used would have been of more significance to you than this.

Again, I have a problem with a particular style. The fact that I also write elsewhere for a theory audience makes this harder to shake when I'm writing here. But saying that I've written like a CP generator...I'm not sure what this is meant to achieve other than trying to insult me.

You seem to be saying that theorrhea is an affliction and then attempting to fix me into the role of a sadist mocking a person with Tourettes but it isn’t that easy I’m afraid since we aren’t discussing a medical syndrome but a deliberate, conscious choice on your part which even you admit constitutes a serious problem if your intention is ever to use words for communicating with other people.

You should write a critique of accelerationism. More seriously, sure I got some stuff wrong here, okay. But at the same time, and this goes back to the use of concepts outside their original context, I'm not sure this criticism works. When we're talking about accelerating capitalism it doesn't make much sense to say- "oh hey, but you are getting this all wrong, first we have to talk about the momentum of capitalism".

No-one needs to use specialist kinematical or dynamical terms to discuss capitalism (see Black Flame quotations above) just as no-one needs to use specialist Laban choreographic notation to discuss beekeeping unless there are alternative motivations for the use of these non sequiturs beyond the communication of ideas about hives or capitalism.

The momentum of capitalism is its forward motion, yeh? And the accelerationists are crying for a speeding-up of the processes and relations that constitute it. But capitalism doesn't really move. If you try to literalise a metaphor then you're losing its metaphorical potencies. It stops being a metaphor. So I accept that you're right about acceleration and momentum... but when we use these terms in a political context we aren't deploying them as terms describing the reality of objects in space..

Maybe this is clearer now. Or maybe I'm just trying to make the banal sound profound. Or maybe concepts have multiple uses. Or maybe you are asking that no one use words like "speed" without first of all clarifying and constricting their meaning to that used in kinematics? Or perhaps that only masters of conceptual language be allowed to use that language?

I have no axe to grind with the use of metaphors qua metaphors, only with their misuse for ‘voodooing up’ banalities or more commonly as voodoo for voodoo’s sake, a point I make explicitly in your very next quote from my post i.e.:

factvalue wrote:So what was the purpose of this metaphorical ramble? Aren’t analogies and metaphors supposed to help clarify matters? What’s the point of invoking scientific concepts even metaphorically that you clearly have only a shaky grasp of while addressing an audience largely made up of non-scientists if it isn’t to make the banal sound profound?

factvalue wrote:

Quote:
it was a little bit disingenuous of you to straightforwardly deny that Bryant is a Heideggerian when he got into ‘Speculative Realism’ through his enthusiasm for the work of Graham Harman, a thoroughgoing Heideggerian.

Except it wasn't. Bryant isn't a Heideggarian. This is just obvious.

But Harman is.

Also, if I got into architecture because of a particular building, would that make the building an architect?

O I love Zen Koans! If Bryant got into onto-cartography because of Harman, would that make Harman an onto-cartographer? Do young children get older because they get bigger? No to both. And having Bryant as a fan wouldn’t make Harman a Heideggerian either. But he is. If Bryant got into ontocryptology by responding positively to the work of a Heideggerian is it completely honest to suggest that he has absolutely no taste for that flavour of slime? No again.

Mmm, yeh, good point. You don't like it/understand it so its obviously nonsense.

Would you care to translate D&G’s vital message for the uninitiated few billion human beings bent double by the weight of this system in the trenchant passage of theirs I quoted above?

Firstly, the scare quotes and question mark around average in the above are a bit silly; "average punter" was the term you introduced to this thread, so the question needs to be directed at yourself.

Yes..it was directed at me.

By the way, you also accuse me of trying to have my cake and eat it. This is odd because you seem to be saying that I and OTWs are one of two things: we're either a) workers, or b) not workers. This is implied by the snide comment that we couldn't be workers and enjoy onto-cartography. But this assumes that workers can't or shouldn't talk about onto-cartography. Why? Because they're incapable?

I don’t think you can pin the blame for this classification scheme on me unless you see me as the embodiment of the capitalist system. But I grew up on a housing estate with very little but my intelligence to call my own and knowing the pleasures of the mind for the “average worker” I wouldn’t deny them to you. Like I said at the end of the previous post, go for your life if that’s what you’re into but don’t expect me to see it as in any way revolutionary, to say the least.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_3_GyW6omY

Ablokeimet
Jul 1 2014 12:15

OK. Factvalue has a reasonable point he/she is trying to make - that clarity of expression is important. Very important. My issue with Factvalue's argument here is that he/she is directing criticism at the wrong person. I find Simply Explode's essays above to be relatively straightforward (though being somewhat more demanding on my comprehension than the average broadsheet newspaper). Further, I think Simply Explode is making some quite valid points. The bit about acceleration, I thought, was quite clear and also valuable (even if a better grounding in physics would have eliminated one or two non-material errors). And yes, it was basically the same thing as Factvalue quoted from Black Flame - except that it used fewer words than Schmidt & van der Walt did.

Now, while I don't claim to be up on recent Continental Philosophy, I did read a fair bit of Critical Theory at the time that Post-modernism was getting up a head of steam. I disliked Post-modernism intensely at the time and, in light of what I learned about it since, I have acquired quite an allergy to impenetrable prose that passes itself off as philosophy. This is because:

(a) Reading this stuff is bloody hard work. It slows me down massively and I constantly find that my eyes have glazed over and that I need to go back and read it again. A page probably takes five times or more the amount of time to read than a clear exposition would take.

(b) When I take the time to read it sufficiently thoroughly to understand it, I always find lots of stuff with which to disagree vigorously. The stuff is full of wild generalisations, invalid assumptions and just plain non sequiturs.

(c) Post-modernism became all the rage in Paris at the very time that the Paris intelligentsia was deserting the PCF (i.e. the early 1980s). This was not a crime in itself, but the Post-modern denunciation of all "grand narratives" as supposedly totalitarian was the most staggering display of arse-covering that I've ever witnessed. Having defended Stalin and all his works during his lifetime, and then adopted the very mild critique of Stalinism that the PCF did during the 60s & 70s, thus continuing to endorse the same Machiavellian politics, the ex-Stalinist intellectuals clutched onto a critique of Stalinism that served two functions:

(i) It allowed them to appear to criticise the USSR from the Left, while actually preparing the theoretical ground for a march to the Right and capitulating to neo-liberalism; and

(ii) It tarred all Left critics of Stalinism with the same brush. The Trotskyists, the Old Bolsheviks and all the other victims of the Moscow Trials of 1937-38 were just as guilty of "totalitarianism" as Stalin was. The Left Communists, the Anarchists, the Kronstadt rebels and everyone who criticised Lenin from the Left were just as guilty, as well. Hell - anybody at all who thought that society was comprehensible as a whole and wanted a better system was just a would-be Stalin!

How useful an argument was this? "Yes, we're guilty, but so are you - and at least we've repented, which is more than you've done, so we're still better than you!" They don't have to accept that their Left critics were correct all those decades. When one pretext for dismissing them won't hold water any more, the seize on another.

At bottom, impenetrable language has a purpose. It is meant to disguise poor logic - you get the main line of argument, but can't grasp enough of it to see where the faults are. I detest the Post-modernists for it, but I find the language of Out of the Woods and Simply Explode to be nowhere near that dense.

simiangene
Jul 1 2014 14:01
omen wrote:
(This is about the discussion in the comments rather than this specific blog.)

(I am naturally assuming that Zizek is secretly an avid libcom reader.)

You're a prophet chained to a craggy mountain for eternity and Foucault rolls up with a hacksaw hmm?

omen
Jul 1 2014 18:21

Since this comment thread is already wildly derailed, and since we're sharing: I was flicking though Zizek's thousand page magnum opus Less Than Nothing a couple of weeks ago, and read this pile of words:

Zizek wrote:
The paradox of this virtualization of capitalism is ultimately the same as that of the electron in particle physics. The mass of each elementary particle is composed of its mass at rest plus the surplus provided by the acceleration of its movement: however, an electron's mass at rest is zero, its mass consists only of the surplus generated by the acceleration, as if we are dealing with a nothing which acquires some deceptive substance only by magically spinning itself into an excess of itself. Does not today's virtual capitalist function in a homologous way--his "net value" is zero, he just operates with the surplus, borrowing from the future?

With my physics hat on (it has earflaps): Now, there are many things wrong with this short paragraph, but the one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest is the fact that the electron's mass is not zero! It even has it's own mathematical symbol, Me, and they don't usually give those things out to physical constants if they're zero! And even if it were zero, it'd be travelling at the speed of light, and couldn't be accelerated or decelerated (massless particles always travel at the speed of light). Also, I'm not entirely certain what would actually happen if electrons spontaneously became massless, but if it ever happens I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the universe!

With my layman's hat on (it also has earflaps): The whole point of using analogies and metaphors is to make things clearer for the reader, therefore they should be based on things familiar to the reader. I can't imagine many Zizek readers are familiar with particle physics and special relativity, and I guess that was his point ("Whoohoo! Look at me! I can do science, too, just like that Einstein guy!").

Meanwhile at Cern, the particle physicist are stood around the control panel of the Large Hadron Collider, sipping their espressos and discussing Slavoj Zizek's latest magnum opus, and what would really happen if Scott Bakula stepped into a particle accelerator.

factvalue
Jul 1 2014 21:14

omen wrote:

Quote:
And even if it were zero, it'd be travelling at the speed of light, and couldn't be accelerated or decelerated (massless particles always travel at the speed of light). Also, I'm not entirely certain what would actually happen if electrons spontaneously became massless

You can just see Zizek skimming a Special Theory of Relativity primer on the bog while eating his dinner and staring absently at the picture of Lacan above the toilet paper holder and then on noticing the application of the binomial theorem to the formula for the proper mass which leads to the expression: total mass = rest mass + kinetic energy/speed of light squared, spitting his food into the bath in his excitement and groaning "O dat's fuckin’ choice!!"

Photons can be accelerated. With visible light photons for example, you can speed them up, slow them down and change their direction (these all count as accelerations) by passing them between optically more or less dense media such as glass and air (the phenomenon known as refraction) - they move at around 300,000,000 m/s in air and 200,000,000 m/s in glass such as the glass in fibre optic cables.

Since they are created by the accelerations of charged particles, light photons can even be made to create the electromagnetic equivalent of a sonic boom when these charged source particles move faster than the photons they are making in certain media (the phenomenon of Cerenkov radiation).

Electrons will spontaneously become massless if they collide with their antiparticles the positrons in what are known as 'pair annihilation' events, where their mass-energies are converted into photons. And while I’m sure I come across as the language police in these comments I’ve absolutely no objections to experiments with language if it isn’t immediately concerned with the destruction of capitalism. Some of my favourite writers - Joyce, Broch, Celan – have made language sing unbelievable music. By the way matter-antimatter pair annihilation has had a successful run in a supporting role in William Burroughs’ forward to Jack Black’s classic hobo biography You Can’t Win in Burroughs’ division of the human world into ‘shits’ and ‘Johnsons’:

A basic split between shits and Johnsons has emerged. I see the world as a stage in which different actors are assigned to different roles. Of course any Johnson does do shitty things at times. But he knows enough to regret such actions. It is very rare that a hard core shit acts like a Johnson. He simply does not understand what it means to be a Johnson, and is irrevocably committed to a different viewpoint. A direct confrontation of the shits and the Johnsons could be as drastic as the conjunction of matter and antimatter: POOF! No reconciliation, no agreeing to disagree, is possible.

omen
Jul 1 2014 21:27
factvalue wrote:
You can just see Zizek skimming a Special Theory of Relativity primer on the bog while eating his dinner and staring absently at the picture of Lacan above the toilet paper holder and then on noticing the application of the binomial theorem to the formula for the proper mass which leads to the expression: total mass = rest mass + kinetic energy/speed of light squared, spitting his food into the bath in his excitement and groaning "O dat's fuckin’ choice!!"

I'd originally typed a quick paragraph on Zizek cribbing his physics from some pop-sci book, but deleted it. And also originally commented on the "moving mass" versus "rest mass" thing, and how the "moving mass" thing has generally been dropped except in Relativity 101 courses and pop-sci books (which generally follow a "wow! isn't relativity cool and weird!" line, while missing the point that it is invariants that are the most important thing to physicists, hence rest mass is now usually just referred to as mass, and what was called "moving mass" is just the particles energy / c^2, and since particle physicists generally work in units where c=1, because they are lazy, the whole thing becomes moot anyway! Energy = rest energy + kinetic energy, doesn't sound quite so fantastic as things becoming more massive as they approach the speed of light.)

factvalue wrote:
Photons can be accelerated. With visible light photons for example, you can speed them up, slow them down and change their direction (these all count as accelerations) by passing them between optically more or less dense media such as glass and air (the phenomenon known as refraction) - they move at around 300,000,000 m/s in air and 200,000,000 m/s in glass such as the glass in fibre optic cables.

That's the average speed of the photons in the medium. The photons scatter off the particles (most likely electrons) in the medium, which slows down their average speed and changes their final direction of travel, but between the collisions they still travel at c, and they still travel in straight lines. (I meant to say in a vacuum originally, but cut it out as I didn't think anyone would notice, and I was starting to add too many caveats, and began editing them out of concision.)

factvalue wrote:
Since they are created by the accelerations of charged particles, light photons can even be made to create the electromagnetic equivalent of a sonic boom when these charged source particles move faster than the photons they are making in certain media (the phenomenon of Cerenkov radiation).

Yeah, but they're not travelling faster than the photons, as I said above, although they are travelling faster than than the average speed of the photons which they are "slowed down" (over all) by scattering.

factvalue wrote:
Electrons will spontaneously become massless if they collide with their antiparticles the positrons in what are known as 'pair annihilation' events, where their rest energies are converted into photons.

I'm not sure that counts as an electron being massless, as there is no longer an electron (or positron), only some photons, which are massless. (e- + e+ -> 2 gamma is the most probable result, but there are others.)

I was also going to mention the Higgs mechanism/boson (which I believe Zizek does much earlier in the book, but I deliberately didn't read that as I didn't want to facepalm myself into unconsciousness) but decided that was a wee bit too advanced for a forum post. In short, all particles were originally massless, but they also travelled at c, which doesn't help Zizek's analogy. And I'm pretty sure none of this is what Zizek had in mind.

Also, I've read quite a lot of William S Burroughs (including the unreadable stuff), and he talks a lot of shit, although he's generally an entertaining bullshitter, imo.

[And finally, I vote this for thread for most derailed libcom thread of the year.]

Joseph Kay
Jul 1 2014 21:43
Roy Bhaskar wrote:
It should perhaps be said at the outset that I am not going to refer to quantum mechanics in my argument. It seems to me to be always a mistake, in philosophy, to argue from the current state of a science (and especially physics).

factvalue
Jul 2 2014 12:48

Kudos! Yeah absolutely, invariants/symmetries of the Lagrangian density in QFT. I remember my third year undergrad essay on path integrals and gauge symmetry in quantum fields ballooning when I decided to include the Goldstone and Higgs stuff and then detouring into BCS superconductivity - got a very decent mark but it would have been higher if I'd known how to leave it out. Last Burroughs I remember reading was Western Lands, an Egyptian romp across the border of the spirit plane using centipede venom, went on a bit.

simiangene
Jul 2 2014 16:48
Quote:
With my physics hat on (it has earflaps):

Mine has a propeller on top, my layman's has a spanner, but yes, I agree with you.

MarkPawelek
Aug 30 2014 14:47

About as worthless a piece as I've ever read.
* Your philosophical quotes and musings are vacuous,
* You haven't shown Prometheanism to be a theology. It's an inversion of theology to me. Describing oneself as a Promethean is akin to saying what one is not e.g. I'm not a paleo-green,
* 'Accelerate Manifesto' : never read it, nor likely to,
* A practical politics starts with the realisation that we start a journey from where we are not from where we think we want to be.

kingzog
Aug 14 2015 04:45

Pro-prometheanism. Pave the Earth, control the skies.

Capitalism contains a few dualisms. On the one hand, modern industry brings us modern medicine, and many other amenities. On the other hand, people face (relative)poverty and man does not consciously, rationally, control his world. It's governed by economic laws first and foremost. The only way "out" of the climate change and environmental catastrophe is either increased mastery of technologies which can mitagate/reverse(I believe communist society would be more adept at this) it and reduce pollution or death. Im choosing to be on the Promethean side o things, not the NTE(near term extctintion) crypto-primitivists.