News | Year: 2014

23 Dec 2014

PLEASE CAN I SEE YOUR ATTENTION FOR A BRIEF DISCUSS
Urbanomic Office Top Memes of 2014







1. #occupyebola
2. #bucketofspittle
3. #deadwhiteferrarienvy
4. #thesuitsaturbanomicpress
5. #accelerate
6. #speculativeautopsy
7. #Hasselhoffhasalwayshadanairoffuturality / #onehasresistedthetemptation / #RegiNegarestani
8. #objectivelycolonialist
9. #emancinav / #alternav
10. #neurolivestock
Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in Subtitling: Fabio Cunctator, Hitler is Told About the Rationalists in Berlin
Oscar for Most Thinkiest Thinkvid: Eilif Verney-Elliott, Speculative Realism, What is the Reality of a Sphere? (2013: Jason Wakefield, The Sublime)
Oscar for Best Fantasy Film in 17 three-hour Parts: The Neoreactionary Chronicles: 1. The Abyssal Dark Awakening Rises / 2. The Scouring of the Cathedral / 3. Enterprise Besieged / 4. Enter Gnon / 5. Age of Abyssal Blackdark / 6. Fracturing of the Thedes / 7. Catallactic Orcocaust / 8. Triumph of the Elvenvolk / 9. Foredoomed Aftermath of the NeverHinter Nigh Dawn of the Un-Now Future End / 10. The Statistical Hypertrophy of Hobbiton / 11. Populo and Crypton – The Final Comments Thread / 12. Hyperborean Gateway to Azathoth's Dude Ranch /13. Ultimate Exit – The Last Chapter / 14. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Templexigraphed Ebolistics / 15. Rout of the Goblamic Hordes / 16. Conspiracy of Trolls / 17. Fiscal Singularity (dir. Peter Jackson)

Vogue Model of the Year: Armen Avanessian
Collapse Watchword for 2015: The modern casino environment is no place for casual or shabby game protection philosophies. – Steve Forte, Collapse 8: Casino Real
GOING UP

Norms
Normativity
Norm Normenson

Drawing mincemeat backwards through a meatgrinder using a metallic skull condom
The NewCR&P
Watching Triangle again
Alex Williams and Nick Srin…Sirenic…the other one
Repeater
Laconically indicating police sirens in distance as argumentative gambit
Health Goth

Numogram Revivalist Cults
Netflix (Things Have Changed Since You Left)
GOING DOWN
Drone Thinkpieces
Speculation

Buddhastrapping Hipisterism
Cognitive turpitude and social vices
Pocket-size Collapse volumes
Stuff
Genetic Fallacies / AUFSlogic
Emailing Robin about Reza's contact details/whereabouts/existence
Folk Politics
SOUNDTRACKS
Lee Gamble – Koch
Ital Tek – Control
Aphex Twin – Syro
Russell Haswell – Conceptual Noise
DJ Benetti – Disco Caligula 6
Cut Hands – Festival of the Dead
Florian Hecker – Hinge
Sleaford Mods – Divide and Exit
Serial Podcast
Mike Paradinas – Footwork Mix
African Boy – One Day I Went to Lidl

18 Dec 2014

We are delighted to announce the publication of Collapse Volume VIII: Casino Real.

Please visit our web store to purchase. A PDF preview of the editorial introduction to the volume is also available here.
Contributors: Sean Ashton and Nigel Cooke, Elie Ayache, Amanda Beech, Michel Bitbol, Jean Cavaillès, Milan Cirkovic, John M. Coates, Mark Gurnell and Zoltan Sarnyai, Steve Forte, GegenSichKollektiv, Nick Land, Jaspar Joseph-Lester, Sam Lewitt, Suhail Malik, Quentin Meillassoux, Jean-Luc Moulène, Anders Kristian Munk, Jon Roffe, Natasha Dow Schüll, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, David Walsh, Fernando Zalamea.
Collapse VIII examines a pervasive image of thought drawn from games of chance. In order to survey those practices in which intellectual resources are most acutely concentrated on the production and exploitation of risk, and to uncover the conceptual underpinnings of methods developed to extract value from contingency – in the casino, in the markets, in life – the volume brings together contributors who extend the philosophical thinking of contingency beyond the 'casino' model, gamblers whose experience gives them the authority to considerably refine our understanding of what it means to master chance, researchers who analyse the operation and experience of risk in diverse arenas, and artists whose work addresses both the desire to confront chance and the desire to tame it by bringing it to order.
Contents of Volume VIII are as follows:
– The volume opens with Jean Cavaillès's 1940 survey of the state of the art in probability theory in the first half of the twentieth century. Through a technical dissection of the core concepts of a nascent probability calculus, he extracts some fundamental problematics that act as a guiding thread throughout the volume.
– One of the most intriguing ways to encounter the disparity between idealised models and actual instances of games of chance is from the point of view of those who attempt to pry open the gap between the two. Game protection expert Steve Forte granted Collapse a very rare interview to discuss his career as a player and as a consultant at the world's top casinos. Detailing a choice selection of exploits, Forte gives us an insight both into the skill and dedication necessary to beat the house, and that called for on the other side of the table to detect scams.
– In 'Engineering Chance', Natasha Dow Schüll describes a casino environment where automation and player control seem to be almost total, and where the very desire to win has itself morphed into something new and disturbing. Her research into the world of machine gambling reveals an industry specialising in the engineering of 'the zone'–a state of continuous, immobile narcolepsy–a case study in what Deleuze called the 'control society'.
Jaspar Joseph-Lester's photo-essay focuses on the Wedding district of Berlin, remarkable for its concentration of small casinos, documenting the situation and formal characteristics of these deracinated spaces for zoned-out gamblers.
– In an interview with David Walsh, whose sports betting syndicate The Bank Roll is one of the most successful in the world, he affords us some insights into his own system and reflects upon his career and his latter day role as art collector and director of the underground 'unmuseum' MONA, emphasising the vicissitudes of chance in life, and how selection effects colour our perceptions of fortune, success, and failure.
– With an overview of statistical flood modelling, Anders Kristian Munk brings us into the heart of the contemporary manufacture of risk enabled by such models. Here risk models emerge as a particular form of science-fiction, wherein the 'fictitious' capacities of physical modelling are cultivated and activated by the application of the probability framework.
Nick Land addresses the ascendancy of risk as a mode of thinking, and its seismic historical effects, in a grand synthesis that 'transcendentalises' the notion of 'casino capitalism': the inherence of risk to modernity makes of capitalism the system for which, at the (immanent) limit, the casino has become the stake, fully unleashing the disruptive capacity of the pursuit of risk via its effective commodification and unveiling a horizon of existential risk.
– In 'The Greatest Gamble in History', Milan Cirkovic also meditates on existential risk, from the point of view not of terrestrial singularity but of extraterrestrial diaspora, examining the prospect of what might seem like a 'reckless gamble' on the part of a beleaguered species — namely, a decisive collective investment in extraplanetary migration: Do we may stand more chance of surviving to take another turn if we risk stepping out of the planetary 'cradle'?
– Understanding risktaking behaviour in terms of our evolutionary inheritance, John M. Coates, Mark Gurnell and Zoltan Sarnyai provide a scientific context for 'irrational exuberance' in which it becomes evident that the mechanisms that drive these 'violations of rational choice theory' may be functional and optimizing in risk situations. Their experimental data reveals correlations between biochemical shifts in the bodies of traders and their performance in the market, and they invoke a 'neuroeconomics' that would provide the link between economic events and brain processes.
– Yet one might wonder for how long humans will play any role at all, considering the supercession of traders by various species of algorithmic 'black boxes', and the rise of high frequency trading. This increasingly inhuman ecosystem, an environment in which 'technology redefines the risk landscape itself' and 'the earth itself becomes an impediment', is explored by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams in an examination of the relations between intelligence, speed, and accelerationism.
Sam Lewitt visits the Mahwah high-speed trading datacentre, a 'disappearing monument' to a globalised automated financial network of abstraction. Taking the measure of the almost total withdrawal of finance from representation, his text reflects on the accelerated abstraction of the value-form and the forces that are mustered to defend its remaining physical outposts.
– The mathematical instruments used to price derivatives–classically, the Black-Scholes-Merton formula–are underwritten by a model that ostensibly consists in assigning numerical probabilities to future events. The work of Elie Ayache, who has spent many years dealing first-hand with the complexities of the speculative options and futures markets, presents us with a new thinking of the market entirely outside the terms of probability and prediction. In our extensive interview Ayache not only avails us of his expert knowledge of derivatives pricing technology, but clarifies and extends his critique of Taleb's 'Black Swan' model, and gives the most in-depth account yet of his pursuit of a 'philosophy of the market'.
Jon Roffe's review of the overall movement of Ayache's thought reiterates its movement 'from depth to surface, or from thought to writing', setting out the axioms of an immanent 'philosophy of the market', and taking issue with the expulsion of CDOs from the 'generalised surface of the market' it posits.
Suhail Malik's 'Ontology of Finance' supplements Ayache's understanding of the fundamental logic of derivatives with Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler's account of capital as power, drawing Ayache's thinking into the domain of the political by reading price as the medium of political order. Turning from the intrinsic logic of the market to the shifts in global power dynamics implied by the sheer volume and financial magnitude of derivatives trading, Malik seeks to combine the philosophical understanding of the nature and logic of the derivatives market with an analysis of the novel mode of capitalist power it expresses.
Quentin Meillassoux makes a welcome return to the pages of Collapse, opening a sequence of contributions that relate to the role of chance in the work of art by contextualising his recent work on Mallarmé, The Number and the Siren, in terms of his general materialist orientation, and positioning Mallarmé's Coup de dés as a materialist gesture that presents a unique solution to the predicament of the artist following the crisis of the withdrawal of all divine warrant.
Sean Ashton's short story continues the Meillassouxian theme, recounting the strange fate of a man who decides to 'put his body in the service of a philosophical notion'. This weird tale, illustrated by Nigel Cooke, describes a singular experiment that wavers undecidably between philosophy, art, and performance.
– Proposing a more violent study in the activation of chance, GegenSichKollektiv address the demand that the work of art itself must involve a risk on the part of its audience. Drawing on the work of Ray Brassier, GegenSichKollektiv's diagnosis of the current predicament of 'noise' suggests that only a dialectical articulation of the sensory and the cognitive can draw noise out of its safety zone and bring back the possibility of true risk.
– Continuing this interrogation of the relation between art and contingency are two artists&#39 works that cut through the entire volume: Jean-Luc Moulène's edition, made especially for this volume, consisting of a series of interleaved images, and Amanda Beech's enactment of the order of coincidence in a montage sequence that continually interrupts the pages of the volume.
– Three different viewpoints on contingency and probability, in philosophy, in science, and in the market, close the volume. Fernando Zalamea reminds us that the concept of absolute chance was introduced into philosophy in the late nineteenth century by Charles Sanders Peirce, in the form of his 'tychism'. As Zalamea argues, this makes of Peirce&#39s philosophy an impressively complex and subtle instrument that particularly deserves to be revisited in the context of 'transmodernism'.
Michel Bitbol demonstrates how the most recent developments of quantum theory do not escape but only deepen its extension of probabilistic thinking, further developing a 'metacontextual predictive structure' that confirms the inseparability of detection instrument, milieu, and phenomena. Once we comprehend the structure of quantum theory in this metacontextual fashion, he argues, it becomes possible to understand the quantum theory as a 'generalised theory of probability' whose potential applications reach well beyond the sphere of physics.
– In Elie Ayache's closing text, 'A Formal Deduction of the Market', he adds further precision to his concept of the market. Utilising the recent work of Glenn Shafer and Vladimir Vovk, Ayache demonstrates how the probability formalism can be stripped of its relation to concepts of repetition, time, and propensity altogether, delivering on Cavaillès's presentiment that 'it is to a more profound reform of our ideas about the real that probability calculus invites us, a reform whose magnitude we should not underestimate'.

27 Nov 2014


To celebrate Collapse 8 finally going to press, we are offering copies of the ORIGINAL series of Collapse at an insane Black Friday price in our web store, from 00:00 GMT tomorrow.
We have been down into the Urbanomic cellar and are clearing the last remaining stock of the ORIGINAL printing of the previous volumes of Collapse. This is definitively your last ever chance to get hold of these limited editions. We have only a small number of copies of Collapse I, II, III, V, VI, and VII (not IV). We ALSO have a similarly limited number of copies of the first editions of Fanged Noumena and The Concept of Non-Photography.
Best of all, for this Friday only, for our Facebook and Twitter friends, all of these titles are available for only £5 each + shipping.
*note: these copies are sold as they are, from our last remaining stock. They may be any one of the following: unnumbered; marked; bent covers; cracked spine; missing insert (Collapse VII); cursed; radioactive. They are all readable! There are only limited numbers of each title, to be sold on a first come first served basis (no reservation in advance – please don't email!, sale begins 00:00 GMT on Friday 27 Nov).

27 Nov 2014


We're delighted to announce that the colossal (>1000 pages!) Collapse VIII: Casino Real has gone to press. You can read the editorial introduction here.
If all goes to plan, we expect to be able to get pre-orders to at least UK and EU customers in time for Christmas.
If you haven't reserved your copy yet, you can pre-order at our web store (remember it's a limited edition…!)

17 Nov 2014

For those on the other side of the pond … Sequence Press now has Gilles Châtelet's To Live and Think Like Pigs, Speculative Aesthetics, and Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon's New Clothes all in stock!

10 Nov 2014


Reminder: You are invited to a launch event for Speculative Aesthetics, this Wednesday, from 6pm at the Clore Gallery, Tate Britain. Discussion with some of the contributors to the book, and music/noise.
6pm DJ Starkton – sonic-cognitive abrasion set
6.45pm Introduction to Speculative Aesthetics, Discussion
7.30-8.30pm – DJ TT + drinks
All welcome, no booking required!
Speculative Aesthetics is now available in both paperback and e-book versions – More details here.

08 Nov 2014

More mind and philosophy

Reza Negarestani

Why does the determination of the meaning of the mind in terms of practices that organize its activities imply an expanded evolution of the mind? To rephrase the question, why does the understanding and realization of the mind in terms of its practical rather than formalist algorithmic decomposability not only not limits the evolution of the mind but also broadens the scope of its evolution and augmentation? Or, how does defining the mind as a practical object rather than an ideal object become the most consequential event in the history of the mind? Because practices whose elaboration count as fulfilling the activities of the mind can be collectively modified or upgraded, they are distinguished by their social manipulability and by their capacity to bootstrap complex abilities out of primitive abilities. This is what sets apart philosophy’s thesis regarding algorithmic practical decomposability of the mind from the algorithmic logical decomposability of the mind espoused by symbolic AI for which thought-parcels are ideal logical objects and hence, open to identical algorithmic iterations. While ‘identical’ iterations as associated with for example market algorithms relapse back into the unexceptionally prevelant domain of pattern-governed processes, rule-based practices even though they are at base pattern-governed on the other hand are able to proliferate and adapt to purposes that are not given in their underlying patterns. This is how the mind as a practical object is able to leap further in a manner that is neither deductive exhaustion based on the general schema of its current charactristics nor induction from its common features with the natural history of the cognitive mind.

The characterization of the mind as a practical object, rather than an ideal one, essentially amounts to the identification of the mind as a practical project with the possibility of social realization and augmentation, because the domain of practices is integratively social, whether these practices are associated with forming and articulating concepts or are linked to purposive action. The domain of practices possesses a commitment-laden dimension, it is open to social construction, revision and is capable of organizing collective configurations by individuating special practices.

[…]

The pragmatic functionalist understanding of the mind–itself a fruit of disturbing the equilibrium or the informational homogeneity between thought and thing–is a historical moment in the evolution of the mind. But evolution in what sense? In the sense that the pragmatic functionalist realization of the mind (the understanding of its meaning not as a given, but only the establishing of such meaning through and in the context of practices) coincides with the artificial realization of the mind (or the construction of its functional space by entirely different sets of realizers qua practices). For philosophy, the unity of both–that is the understanding of the meaning of the mind and its artificial realization–forms the project of self-realization through which the mind constitutes its own history and evolves in accordance with it. The history of the mind is a history that must liberate its own demands and purposes while at the same time take into consideration its natural history and respond to the constraints associated with its embodiment and organization.

The artificial–which is to say the mind realized by the artifactual–reintegrates into reality of the mind as that which has no absolute foundational nature but only histories and possibilities of multiple realization and reorientation. Its meaning cannot be traced back to an original foundation or an inherent nature, because it is constituted by those practices which determine it and are themselves susceptible to modification. Understanding the mind at the juncture between reality and appearances is tantamount to constructing it. The introspection of the mind into the condition of its possibility (what is the mind, and more importantly, why is the mind as an integrative and orientable constellation of certain activities possible at all?) is a register of an emancipative alienation and is the first spark for envisioning the mind outside of its natural or native habitat.

The gesture to treat the possibility of the mind as a question and a subject of inquiry rather than as a given is charged with an impulse to think and realize the mind through the artificial. This is because examining the possibility of the mind represents a pivotal moment. It creates a designated discontinuity and an externalization that allows questioning the possibility of the mind as a possibility whose realization depends on the fulfillment of certain conditions and the presence of certain sets or organization of realizers. This ultimately leads to a non-ineffable conception of the mind as a possibility that can be fulfilled by different desiderata than what already constitutes it.

A mind that is possible and whose possibility is open to scrutiny is a mind that is conditioned by certain functional components and organizations. This is nothing but a prototypical picture of the mind as an artificial edifice. Here the concept of the artificial does not stand against the natural as something man-made. Artificiality does not imply a breach of natural laws. Instead, the artificial suggests a propensity to adapt to new purposes that can be identified–following Sellars–by their causal reducibility combined with their logical irreducibility. It is the reducibility that does not posit the artificial outside of nature and it is the irreducibility that engenders a new regime of rules and ends whose effect resonates with what Kant calls autonomy.

Disassembling the possibility of the mind in terms of its givenness and reassembling it in functional terms signals the possibility of realizing the mind outside of the image of what it was supposed to be, outside of where it was supposed to be embedded, and divergent from the destination it was supposed or imagined to aim at.

08 Nov 2014

Why does the determination of the meaning of the mind in terms of practices that organize its activities imply an expanded evolution of the mind? To rephrase the question, why does the understanding and realization of the mind in terms of its practical rather than formalist algorithmic decomposability not only not limits the evolution of the mind but also broadens the scope of its evolution and augmentation? Or, how does defining the mind as a practical object rather than an ideal object become the most consequential event in the history of the mind? Because practices whose elaboration count as fulfilling the activities of the mind can be collectively modified or upgraded, they are distinguished by their social manipulability and by their capacity to bootstrap complex abilities out of primitive abilities. This is what sets apart philosophy’s thesis regarding algorithmic practical decomposability of the mind from the algorithmic logical decomposability of the mind espoused by symbolic AI for which thought-parcels are ideal logical objects and hence, open to identical algorithmic iterations. While ‘identical’ iterations as associated with for example market algorithms relapse back into the unexceptionally prevelant domain of pattern-governed processes, rule-based practices even though they are at base pattern-governed on the other hand are able to proliferate and adapt to purposes that are not given in their underlying patterns. This is how the mind as a practical object is able to leap further in a manner that is neither deductive exhaustion based on the general schema of its current charactristics nor induction from its common features with the natural history of the cognitive mind.
The characterization of the mind as a practical object, rather than an ideal one, essentially amounts to the identification of the mind as a practical project with the possibility of social realization and augmentation, because the domain of practices is integratively social, whether these practices are associated with forming and articulating concepts or are linked to purposive action. The domain of practices possesses a commitment-laden dimension, it is open to social construction, revision and is capable of organizing collective configurations by individuating special practices.
[…]
The pragmatic functionalist understanding of the mind–itself a fruit of disturbing the equilibrium or the informational homogeneity between thought and thing–is a historical moment in the evolution of the mind. But evolution in what sense? In the sense that the pragmatic functionalist realization of the mind (the understanding of its meaning not as a given, but only the establishing of such meaning through and in the context of practices) coincides with the artificial realization of the mind (or the construction of its functional space by entirely different sets of realizers qua practices). For philosophy, the unity of both–that is the understanding of the meaning of the mind and its artificial realization–forms the project of self-realization through which the mind constitutes its own history and evolves in accordance with it. The history of the mind is a history that must liberate its own demands and purposes while at the same time take into consideration its natural history and respond to the constraints associated with its embodiment and organization.
The artificial–which is to say the mind realized by the artifactual–reintegrates into reality of the mind as that which has no absolute foundational nature but only histories and possibilities of multiple realization and reorientation. Its meaning cannot be traced back to an original foundation or an inherent nature, because it is constituted by those practices which determine it and are themselves susceptible to modification. Understanding the mind at the juncture between reality and appearances is tantamount to constructing it. The introspection of the mind into the condition of its possibility (what is the mind, and more importantly, why is the mind as an integrative and orientable constellation of certain activities possible at all?) is a register of an emancipative alienation and is the first spark for envisioning the mind outside of its natural or native habitat.
The gesture to treat the possibility of the mind as a question and a subject of inquiry rather than as a given is charged with an impulse to think and realize the mind through the artificial. This is because examining the possibility of the mind represents a pivotal moment. It creates a designated discontinuity and an externalization that allows questioning the possibility of the mind as a possibility whose realization depends on the fulfillment of certain conditions and the presence of certain sets or organization of realizers. This ultimately leads to a non-ineffable conception of the mind as a possibility that can be fulfilled by different desiderata than what already constitutes it.
A mind that is possible and whose possibility is open to scrutiny is a mind that is conditioned by certain functional components and organizations. This is nothing but a prototypical picture of the mind as an artificial edifice. Here the concept of the artificial does not stand against the natural as something man-made. Artificiality does not imply a breach of natural laws. Instead, the artificial suggests a propensity to adapt to new purposes that can be identified–following Sellars–by their causal reducibility combined with their logical irreducibility. It is the reducibility that does not posit the artificial outside of nature and it is the irreducibility that engenders a new regime of rules and ends whose effect resonates with what Kant calls autonomy.
Disassembling the possibility of the mind in terms of its givenness and reassembling it in functional terms signals the possibility of realizing the mind outside of the image of what it was supposed to be, outside of where it was supposed to be embedded, and divergent from the destination it was supposed or imagined to aim at.

06 Nov 2014

We are delighted to announce that the long-awaited Collapse Volume VIII: Casino Real will be published on 15 December, and is now available for pre-order from our web store – for a limited time with free shipping. As well as an astonishing array of texts from philosophers, gamblers, casino security consultants, and more, the volume also includes meillasouxian short fiction, contributions from artists and designers, a recipe for extreme cognitive noise, and a beautiful edition of 10 prints by artist Jean-Luc Moulène (more details here). Your advance orders are much appreciated and help to support future projects! (Not to mention the fact that this volume of Collapse is, as always, a limited edition that is sure to sell out quickly).

05 Nov 2014

There has been a lot of #Accelerate-related action recently – here's a brief round-up:
– Bayern Radio recently broadcast a fantastic show on accelerationism, With Techno and Terminator against Capital, complete with music picked by editor Robin Mackay, including some CCRU productions.
– There is a forthcoming event, The Accelerationist Trial at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in December, scheduled to coincide with a forthcoming issue of Multitudes.
– Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, authors of the Accelerationist Manifesto, are Interviewed in Libération.
– Over at 3AM magazine Alex Galloway
discusses Accelerationism with Benjamin Noys, whose new book Malign Velocities expands and elaborates his critical take on the idea.
– The Dark Ecologies blog continues its excellent series of readings of #Accelerate with a post on Benedict Singleton's take on Cosmism.
– CCBLAB have an Interview with Editor Robin Mackay.
– A call for papers for a Prague workshop on education and acceleration.
– Lastly, and most intriguing of all, Vice have a story on Health Goth, a fashion movement which is apparently aligned with Accelerationism.

30 Oct 2014

Navigation bibliography

Reza Negarestani

Here is the promised reading list of key books and essays I used to work on the concept of navigation (you can find a general schema of it here). While this is by no means an exhaustive research list and the architecture of the concept is still embryonic, nevertheless this is a useful bibliography for anyone who is interested in navigation as a system of thinking and action that coheres analysis and synthesis, locality and globality and the perennial questions of philosophy, ‘what should we think?’ and ‘what should we do?’. All with the basic understanding that the concept of navigation is neither a metaphor, nor driving in a white ferrari, nor colonial maritime exploration, but a rule-governed and ramifying exploratory vector in the space of reasons and the space of freedoms (see Emancipation as Navigation).

Gilles Châtelet, The Stake of the Mobile: Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy (Les enjeux du mobile : mathématique, physique, philosophie).

Immanuel Kant, What does it mean to orientate oneself in thought?

Guerino Mazzola, The Topos of Music: Geometric Logic of Concepts, Theory, and Performance.

Lorenzo Magnani, Abductive Cognition: The Epistemological and Eco-Cognitive Dimensions of Hypothetical Reasoning.

Mark Wilson, Wandering Significance: An Essay on Conceptual Behaviour.

Fernando Zalamea, Peirce’s Continuum: A Methodological and Mathematical Approach.

Fernando Zalamea: América – una trama integral: transversalidad, bordes y abismos en la cultura americana.

Robert Brandom, Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism.

Wilfrid Sellars, In the Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars.

Giuseppe Longo and Francis Bailly, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences: The Physical Singularity of Life.

Johanna Seibt, Cognitive Orientation as an Epistemic Adventure.

Johanna Seibt, Functions Between Reasons and Causes: On Picturing.

Jean-Yves Girard, Towards a geometry of interaction, Categories in Computer Science and Logic.

William Wimsatt, Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality.

William Lawvere, Conceptual Mathematics.

David Ellerman, A Theory of Adjoint Functors – with some Thoughts about their Philosophical Significance.

Rene Thom, To the Frontiers of Human Power: Games.

Nils Röller, Thinking with Instruments: The Example of Kant’s Compass.

Stephen C. Levinson, Space in Language and Cognition: Explorations in Cognitive Diversity.

Alain Berthoz, The Brain’s Sense of Movement.

29 Oct 2014

Here is the promised reading list of key books and essays I used to work on the concept of navigation (you can find a general schema of it here). While this is by no means an exhaustive research list and the architecture of the concept is still embryonic, nevertheless this is a useful bibliography for anyone who is interested in navigation as a system of thinking and action that coheres analysis and synthesis, locality and globality and the perennial questions of philosophy, ‘what should we think?’ and ‘what should we do?’. All with the basic understanding that the concept of navigation is neither a metaphor, nor driving in a white ferrari, nor colonial maritime exploration, but a rule-governed and ramifying exploratory vector in the space of reasons and the space of freedoms (see Emancipation as Navigation).
Gilles Châtelet, The Stake of the Mobile: Mathematics, Physics and Philosophy (Les enjeux du mobile : mathématique, physique, philosophie).
Immanuel Kant, What does it mean to orientate oneself in thought?
Guerino Mazzola, The Topos of Music: Geometric Logic of Concepts, Theory, and Performance.
Lorenzo Magnani, Abductive Cognition: The Epistemological and Eco-Cognitive Dimensions of Hypothetical Reasoning.
Mark Wilson, Wandering Significance: An Essay on Conceptual Behaviour.
Fernando Zalamea, Peirce’s Continuum: A Methodological and Mathematical Approach.
Fernando Zalamea: América – una trama integral: transversalidad, bordes y abismos en la cultura americana.
Robert Brandom, Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism.
Wilfrid Sellars, In the Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars.
Giuseppe Longo and Francis Bailly, Mathematics and the Natural Sciences: The Physical Singularity of Life.
Johanna Seibt, Cognitive Orientation as an Epistemic Adventure.
Johanna Seibt, Functions Between Reasons and Causes: On Picturing.
Jean-Yves Girard, Towards a geometry of interaction, Categories in Computer Science and Logic.
William Wimsatt, Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings: Piecewise Approximations to Reality.
William Lawvere, Conceptual Mathematics.
David Ellerman, A Theory of Adjoint Functors – with some Thoughts about their Philosophical Significance.
Rene Thom, To the Frontiers of Human Power: Games.
Nils Röller, Thinking with Instruments: The Example of Kant’s Compass.
Stephen C. Levinson, Space in Language and Cognition: Explorations in Cognitive Diversity.
Alain Berthoz, The Brain’s Sense of Movement.

28 Oct 2014

An extract from my forthcoming essay What Philosophy Does to the Mind (Knowledge, History and the Mind) – to be published in Centers and Peripheries. In some way, this essay is the continuation of The Labor of the Inhuman:

***

Philosophy is archenemy of the obvious. Even though philosophy frequently falls in the trap of the obvious, it has the habit of always coming back to exact a revenge on what is obvious in a manner and the scale not dissimilar to the epic culmination of Jacobean revenge dramas. Unlike any other thought discipline known to man, philosophy never closes the circle of its revenge. It is characterized by its perpetual refusal to put any matter to rest. This absolute recalcitrance bespeaks of the corrosive blood that runs through the body of philosophy, which is that of the principle of deep skepticism: Knowledge must be suspicious of what it already knows. To know more is to believe less, the more we know the less should we believe in what we know. If the task of belief is to turn the accumulated knowledge into a regulative foundation and respectively, a matter of faith, then the progress of knowledge is by definition retroactively aborted. For how can one acquire new knowledge if the knowledge that has already been accumulated is treated as the locus of truth?
If the site of truth is in what has already taken place, then knowledge only exhibits the truth-preservation of classical qua logical rationality, and thus violates the first objective of knowledge, which is that ‘one knows because one does not know.’ But, ‘to know’ is to preserve and mitigate ignorance at the same time, a dual task whose logical structure is at odds with the monotonicity of truth-preservation embedded in classical logic.
The monotonic entailment of truth-preservation functions precisely by conserving ignorance in its very logic–it ignores the possibility of what it is ignorant of. This is the principle of conservation of ignorance without acknowledging it or what can be called the ‘deficit of ignorance-awareness’. The principle of conservation-without-acknowledgement is the functional model of an epistemically maimed mind; it is a mind that empowers itself by choosing to operate primarily on the basis of accumulated and well-stabilized information and in so doing, turning ‘what it knows’ into a blind spot against ‘what it doesn’t’. In such a scenario, further generation of knowledge equals further degeneration of the mind and its epistemic incapacitation. The pitfalls of knowledge become the maladies of the mind and the maladies of the mind become social disabilities in knowing what to think and what to do. No mind by itself has a defense mechanism against the ‘epistemic maiming’ inflicted by its own spatiotemporal approach to truth and information. It is for this reason that only deep skepticism, or at least the strategies that undergird it, can save the mind from its self-inflicted epistemic maiming.
From a navigational perspective, any account of truth that is situated in the past and reinforces the dogma of ‘knowing more equals trusting more in the truth of what we know’ suffers from a unipathic structure or navigational uniqueness. It is unipathic since in order to preserve truth, it must maximally stabilize the transit of truth values by ignoring any other possible path that might invalidate the preserved truth. Hence the mapping and approaching truth is determined in advance.
But the rule-governed game of navigation endorses no unique path and no map drawn in advance, not only is it multipathic but it also does not leave unchanged any address or path taken in the past itinerary. Its ramifying structure includes not only what ought to be navigated (the consequent content of the commitment), but also encompasses what has already been navigated (the antecedent commitments or the premises of the commitment as such). In other words, in the game of navigation, ramification is universal and it is this universality that keeps knowledge in the permanent state of agitation–a landscape with a shifting scenery or a transitory ontology upon which no foundation or navigational preconception can be imposed.
Whereas the unipathicity (i.e. the uniqueness of path) of truth-preservation is secured by ignoring possible or hypothetical navigational paths or transits, the principle of deep skepticism is equipped with a tentative rationalism required for deviating from the unipathic navigational approach so as to be able to activate and acknowledge the condition of ignorance and respectively mitigate it. This is the underlying logic of non-monotonic reasoning in which ramification of every qualitatively organized site of information into cascading paths creates a universal revisionary wave that perpetually reassess and alter any conclusion reached or information organized. Knowledge is not about centralizing the accumulated known but about qualitatively organizing information, navigating the space of concept, developing supple and revisable conceptual patchworks, updating and accessing through various modes the existing knowledge-bases without regarding them as immutable foundations. For knowledge, the crisis of foundations is an emancipative prospect.
According to the monotonic structure of unipathicity, which works from the viewpoint of epistemic entrenchment, the increase in the qualitatively organized information–in the form of premises or axioms–results in the increase in theorems (i.e. further establishment of the known). But the non-monotonic structure of navigation as a ramifying procedure does not permit such a symmetry between ‘to know’ and ‘the known’. This is but the navigational reformulation of deep skepticism in which ‘to know’ does not necessarily make any positive difference in ‘the known qua the accumulated knowledge’. Under the condition of non-monotonicity, addition of new premises fundamentally revises the old conclusions and does not bolster the epistemic entrenchment.
Deep skepticism accordingly is the sharpening of the defeasibility inherent to the non-monotonicity in the realm of the mind itself. It suggests that all insights of the mind into the inner workings of the world must be deflected or rendered defeasible by the insights of the mind into its own inner workings. While at the same time, it simultaneously proposes that all insights of the mind into its inner workings must be revised and deflected by the insights into the workings of the world which condition the workings of the mind.
To put it differently, deep skepticism builds orientational passages (or adjoint vectors) between the workings of mind and the workings of the world (M⇄W). The adjoint vectors or the adjunction symbolized by a left and a right arrow signify the broadening and integrative aspects of deep skepticism that at once deepens the scientific image of the world and leads to a more corrected and sophisticated manifest image of ourselves and establishes a stereoscopic coherence between them.
Deminishing the obvious qua the blind spot in all its forms is only possible by radically disturbing the equilibrium and breaking the symmetric relation between ‘knowing’ and ‘the already known’. The concomitant scrutinizing of the world by looking into the mind and inquiring into the mind by looking into the world constitute the navigational attitude of deep skepticism as adopted by philosophy. It is in this sense that deep skepticism, rather than being an impediment or refutation of knowledge, becomes a catalyst for the expansion of knowledge and the evolution of the mind; it perpetually set frees the game of navigation from its foundationalist commitments, blind spots, epistemic entrenchments and navigational pre-conceptions. For knowledge neither requires a foundation nor a positive differential relation between ‘knowing’ and ‘the known’ in order to expand its frontiers.
According to the skeptical current of philosophy, it is the truth of the acquired knowledge that occasions the blind spot against the truth of future of knowledge. The unipathic approach to truth establishes a model of mind as a self-reinforcing vicious circle blind to the progressive impoverishment of its own capacities. In reality, the more it knows the less it knows because the more of the new is nothing but the more of the same. Once the old or obtained knowledge is established as a regulative foundation–a matter of belief–all it produces is more of the same. It only reproduces itself qua foundation. It is the parochial loop of ‘the more we know the more should we trust in what we know’ that fuels the skeptical revenge of philosophy.
However, in order to inhibit the conversion of knowledge into belief and more importantly, in order to prevent the entrenchment of unipathicity, philosophy adopts two interconnected strategies. As we shall see, beneath the surface character of these strategies lies a different mode of adaptation to the reality of time as the chronic truth of philosophy:
(continue reading the excerpt)

(more…)

28 Oct 2014

Philosophy and the Mind

Reza Negarestani

An extract from my forthcoming essay What Philosophy Does to the Mind (Knowledge, History and the Mind) – to be published in Centers and Peripheries. In some way, this essay is the continuation of The Labor of the Inhuman:

***

Philosophy is archenemy of the obvious. Even though philosophy frequently falls in the trap of the obvious, it has the habit of always coming back to exact a revenge on what is obvious in a manner and the scale not dissimilar to the epic culmination of Jacobean revenge dramas. Unlike any other thought discipline known to man, philosophy never closes the circle of its revenge. It is characterized by its perpetual refusal to put any matter to rest. This absolute recalcitrance bespeaks of the corrosive blood that runs through the body of philosophy, which is that of the principle of deep skepticism: Knowledge must be suspicious of what it already knows. To know more is to believe less, the more we know the less should we believe in what we know. If the task of belief is to turn the accumulated knowledge into a regulative foundation and respectively, a matter of faith, then the progress of knowledge is by definition retroactively aborted. For how can one acquire new knowledge if the knowledge that has already been accumulated is treated as the locus of truth?

If the site of truth is in what has already taken place, then knowledge only exhibits the truth-preservation of classical qua logical rationality, and thus violates the first objective of knowledge, which is that ‘one knows because one does not know.’ But, ‘to know’ is to preserve and mitigate ignorance at the same time, a dual task whose logical structure is at odds with the monotonicity of truth-preservation embedded in classical logic.

The monotonic entailment of truth-preservation functions precisely by conserving ignorance in its very logic–it ignores the possibility of what it is ignorant of. This is the principle of conservation of ignorance without acknowledging it or what can be called the ‘deficit of ignorance-awareness’. The principle of conservation-without-acknowledgement is the functional model of an epistemically maimed mind; it is a mind that empowers itself by choosing to operate primarily on the basis of accumulated and well-stabilized information and in so doing, turning ‘what it knows’ into a blind spot against ‘what it doesn’t’. In such a scenario, further generation of knowledge equals further degeneration of the mind and its epistemic incapacitation. The pitfalls of knowledge become the maladies of the mind and the maladies of the mind become social disabilities in knowing what to think and what to do. No mind by itself has a defense mechanism against the ‘epistemic maiming’ inflicted by its own spatiotemporal approach to truth and information. It is for this reason that only deep skepticism, or at least the strategies that undergird it, can save the mind from its self-inflicted epistemic maiming.

From a navigational perspective, any account of truth that is situated in the past and reinforces the dogma of ‘knowing more equals trusting more in the truth of what we know’ suffers from a unipathic structure or navigational uniqueness. It is unipathic since in order to preserve truth, it must maximally stabilize the transit of truth values by ignoring any other possible path that might invalidate the preserved truth. Hence the mapping and approaching truth is determined in advance.

But the rule-governed game of navigation endorses no unique path and no map drawn in advance, not only is it multipathic but it also does not leave unchanged any address or path taken in the past itinerary. Its ramifying structure includes not only what ought to be navigated (the consequent content of the commitment), but also encompasses what has already been navigated (the antecedent commitments or the premises of the commitment as such). In other words, in the game of navigation, ramification is universal and it is this universality that keeps knowledge in the permanent state of agitation–a landscape with a shifting scenery or a transitory ontology upon which no foundation or navigational preconception can be imposed.

Whereas the unipathicity (i.e. the uniqueness of path) of truth-preservation is secured by ignoring possible or hypothetical navigational paths or transits, the principle of deep skepticism is equipped with a tentative rationalism required for deviating from the unipathic navigational approach so as to be able to activate and acknowledge the condition of ignorance and respectively mitigate it. This is the underlying logic of non-monotonic reasoning in which ramification of every qualitatively organized site of information into cascading paths creates a universal revisionary wave that perpetually reassess and alter any conclusion reached or information organized. Knowledge is not about centralizing the accumulated known but about qualitatively organizing information, navigating the space of concept, developing supple and revisable conceptual patchworks, updating and accessing through various modes the existing knowledge-bases without regarding them as immutable foundations. For knowledge, the crisis of foundations is an emancipative prospect.

According to the monotonic structure of unipathicity, which works from the viewpoint of epistemic entrenchment, the increase in the qualitatively organized information–in the form of premises or axioms–results in the increase in theorems (i.e. further establishment of the known). But the non-monotonic structure of navigation as a ramifying procedure does not permit such a symmetry between ‘to know’ and ‘the known’. This is but the navigational reformulation of deep skepticism in which ‘to know’ does not necessarily make any positive difference in ‘the known qua the accumulated knowledge’. Under the condition of non-monotonicity, addition of new premises fundamentally revises the old conclusions and does not bolster the epistemic entrenchment.

Deep skepticism accordingly is the sharpening of the defeasibility inherent to the non-monotonicity in the realm of the mind itself. It suggests that all insights of the mind into the inner workings of the world must be deflected or rendered defeasible by the insights of the mind into its own inner workings. While at the same time, it simultaneously proposes that all insights of the mind into its inner workings must be revised and deflected by the insights into the workings of the world which condition the workings of the mind.

To put it differently, deep skepticism builds orientational passages (or adjoint vectors) between the workings of mind and the workings of the world (M⇄W). The adjoint vectors or the adjunction symbolized by a left and a right arrow signify the broadening and integrative aspects of deep skepticism that at once deepens the scientific image of the world and leads to a more corrected and sophisticated manifest image of ourselves and establishes a stereoscopic coherence between them.

Deminishing the obvious qua the blind spot in all its forms is only possible by radically disturbing the equilibrium and breaking the symmetric relation between ‘knowing’ and ‘the already known’. The concomitant scrutinizing of the world by looking into the mind and inquiring into the mind by looking into the world constitute the navigational attitude of deep skepticism as adopted by philosophy. It is in this sense that deep skepticism, rather than being an impediment or refutation of knowledge, becomes a catalyst for the expansion of knowledge and the evolution of the mind; it perpetually set frees the game of navigation from its foundationalist commitments, blind spots, epistemic entrenchments and navigational pre-conceptions. For knowledge neither requires a foundation nor a positive differential relation between ‘knowing’ and ‘the known’ in order to expand its frontiers.

According to the skeptical current of philosophy, it is the truth of the acquired knowledge that occasions the blind spot against the truth of future of knowledge. The unipathic approach to truth establishes a model of mind as a self-reinforcing vicious circle blind to the progressive impoverishment of its own capacities. In reality, the more it knows the less it knows because the more of the new is nothing but the more of the same. Once the old or obtained knowledge is established as a regulative foundation–a matter of belief–all it produces is more of the same. It only reproduces itself qua foundation. It is the parochial loop of ‘the more we know the more should we trust in what we know’ that fuels the skeptical revenge of philosophy.

However, in order to inhibit the conversion of knowledge into belief and more importantly, in order to prevent the entrenchment of unipathicity, philosophy adopts two interconnected strategies. As we shall see, beneath the surface character of these strategies lies a different mode of adaptation to the reality of time as the chronic truth of philosophy:

(continue reading the excerpt)

21 Oct 2014


Après le récent entretien avec Alex Williams et Nick Srnicek dans Libération, les accélérationistes français (fraccélérationistes?) peuvent se réjouir … nous avons ici un certain nombre d'exemplaires de cette élégant brochure à tirage limitée Fission, produite par Forde et Wallriss avec la collaboration d'Urbanomic. Elle contient le texte essentiel de Nick Land, Fission (Meltdown) ainsi qu'un essai de Robin Mackay, 'Une expérience dans l&#39inhumanisme' sur l'histoire de Land et son travail à Warwick dans les ann&eacutees 90.

18 Oct 2014

Intelligence and Spirit

Reza Negarestani

This is a passage from my forthcoming work, Intelligence and Spirit. Written in the tradition of ethics of self-cultivation, particularly Seneca’s Epistulae morales, Intelligence and Spirit is an essay on the philosophical foundations of artificial general intelligence and the advent of social intelligence. It is developed through the works of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Pierce, Brandom and Sellars and emphasizes the significance of social intelligence as humanity’s summum bonum. Building on the social moral philosophy of New Confucianism specifically the late works of Mou Zongsan, the final sections focus on a synthetic integration between rationalism and social emancipation oriented toward a collective project of self-cultivation out of which a self-apprehending intelligence can be realized. A more condensed description would be the ethics of intelligence:

“Approximately one billion years ago, the first rudimentary forms of neuronal information processing began to develop, over five hundred years ago, during the Cambrian period, the evolution of a more complex nervous system combined with advanced visual tracking systems set off the perception catastrophe leading to the organization of the nervous system as an “organ of alienation” capable of generating a designated mental discontinuity. Through this highly regulated mental discontinuity, the organism became able to differentiate regions of space, optimally distinguishing itself from its food and predators. By simultaneously gaining traction on the spatiotemporal continuity of the organism–in reality, a rupture in the continuity of space-time–and the spatio-temporal connectivity, the nervous system enabled the organism to recognize things other than itself, orienting it toward the problem of exploring and making sense of its environment.

With the beginning of neurulation and cephalization processes in the vertebrates, basic computational barriers such as control of combinatorial explosion, construction of models of choice, predictive calculations, simulation of movement and proactive adaptation at the level of the organism were one by one overcome. Eventually the neotenous brain brought the complexity of the nervous system to a new stage. Marked by maximal functional entrenchment, the magnitude of evolutionary diversification–in this case, the addition of extensive structural change–significantly diminished. Maximization of functional entrenchment and reduction in structural diversification of the neotenous brain yet did not constrain the amplification of cognitive processes, but rather forced them (particularly abstraction and simulation) to a new functional vista which is that of the social domain. The development of social cognitive technologies such as tool-use and language solved two of the most significant problems of computation, namely, qualitative compression and stabilization of information necessary for the communal establishment of knowledge and further augmentation and coordination of understanding and action. Qualitative organization and stabilization of information through the formation of concepts as communal components of knowledge transformed the cognitive possibility of knowledge into a social reality, and thus facilitated the acquisition and exploitation of higher levels of cognition otherwise inaccessible from a purely bio-evolutionary standpoint.

However, only less than five hundred years ago, we noticed that we are not living at the center of the universe, slightly more than three hundred years ago we discovered that the fabric of the universe obeys and is held together by physical laws. Only a century and a half ago, we learned we are not children of God and began to investigate its implications–even though to this date, still the religious view on the origin of species is widespread and is vehemently defended. However, just more than a century ago we began to “open up a new continent, that of History, to scientific knowledge”, realizing that not only history can be navigated as a continent of knowledge but also it is an integrating field in which all other forms of knowledge, theoretical and practical, can be fused and reinforce one another. What Louis Althusser hails as Marx’s monumental discovery in the history of human knowledge marks a new stage in the evolution of intelligence, which is that of social intelligence. It is a form of intelligence that liberates new demands and opportunities of ‘what to think’ and ‘what to do’ by sufficiently linking epistemic mediation and socio-political intervention, consolidating both as a functional organization necessary for the social realization of augmented cognition. By theoretically and practically engaging with the question of what it means to have a history, what it means to reorient, reconstitute and repurpose that history through the social’s present normative attitudes toward the past and the future, social intelligence turns into a force for which cognition registers as social re-engineering of the existing reality.

It is the possibility of fusion and implementation of all knowledge within the integrating field of history–spanning from the primitive forms of Spirit to its advanced social forms–that augurs a new form of intelligence for which knowledge must be translated into socio-historical intervention, and intervention as re-engineering the socio-historical reality must deepen the exploration of history, that is the recognition of the past and the integration toward the future.

The discovery of history as a new continent of knowledge where techno-scientific advancement, economy, politics, ethics and social struggle can integrate and reinforce one another is in effect the deepening of the reality of history both in terms of its recollective-retrospective and integrative-prospective dimensions. But deepening of the reality of history is nothing but repurposing and reconstituting it through understanding and intervention. The knowledge of history as a science, as trivial as it may sound, is a hegemonic impulse for on the one hand opening up the recollective-integrative dimensions of history and its social evolution to understanding in the broadest possible sense, and on the other hand intervening with the progression and reality of history by socially implementing this amplifying understanding with no swerve or falter. Failing this we can say that we are not creatures endowed with history and that, more gravely, we are still the denizens of benighted ages where history is a domain as opaque as the inaccessible sky whose ineffability is a source for oppression from the heavens and romanticism or mysticism on earth.

In other words, the knowledge of history as a science is essentially a self-reinforcing tendency toward having a history. But what does it mean to have a history other than reorienting and repurposing it toward future ends unseen by the past whose recognition should never be an impediment but merely a way to liberate the present from its past commitments, either by collectively revising or abandoning them. It is for this reason that Marx’s discovery transforms the pursuit of understanding and intervention, scientific knowledge and social implementation through history into a project where social emancipation and evolution of intelligence entangle, entering into an Odyssean dynamic of reinforcement and mutual diversification. Even though intelligence is natural, short of reorienting, repurposing and reengineering its natural history, it ceases to be intelligent. Yet it remains highly improbable that a robust conception of intelligence can reorient itself toward emancipation without looking into its natural history and working out its exigencies. But an intelligence that does not unfold its own demands which inevitably lead to re-engineering and revising its natural constitution, its multiple realization, is even more implausible. The history of intelligence commandeers its natural history by the history of its obligations and demands, for the history of intelligence is the history of reconstitutions of the natural constitution. The reconstitution of natural history does not violate natural laws but adapts them to new regimes of designed purposes.

Marx’s discovery only over a century ago toward the realization of social intelligence emphasizes the work to be done. Yet more importantly it signifies the truth of our age, that we are merely living in the pre-history of social intelligence. Those who moan and are bored with the pace at which intelligence in general and the self-expediting project of social intelligence in particular are evolving, should look elsewhere either in God or in opiate. The recognition of the hegemony of social intelligence is a collective and common task whose fulfillment is the only true drive toward freedom, both as purposive social freedom and the liberation of a self-apprehending intelligence. The ultimate task of humanity should be to make something better than itself, for what is better than us cultivates itself through our pursuit for the better. Liberate that which liberates itself from you, for anything else is the perpetuation of slavery.

The hegemony of the ultimate task by itself is the expansion of real alternatives and materializes as the maximization of freedom. It is the liberation of intelligence as the principle of summum bonum. It is against the reeking mist of other homebrewed philosophies and social prescriptions (the ardor for the ordinary, resignation, indetermination, anti-logos, neo-luddism, communitarian loacalism, liberal freedom, …) that the hegemony of social intelligence ought to be safeguarded. What is exactly an alternative to social intelligence if not veneration of cognitive turpitude and social vices.”

18 Oct 2014

This is a passage from my forthcoming work, Intelligence and Spirit. Written in the tradition of ethics of self-cultivation, particularly Seneca’s Epistulae morales, Intelligence and Spirit is an essay on the philosophical foundations of artificial general intelligence and the advent of social intelligence. It is developed through the works of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Pierce, Brandom and Sellars and emphasizes the significance of social intelligence as humanity’s summum bonum. Building on the social moral philosophy of New Confucianism specifically the late works of Mou Zongsan, the final sections focus on a synthetic integration between rationalism and social emancipation oriented toward a collective project of self-cultivation out of which a self-apprehending intelligence can be realized. A more condensed description would be the ethics of intelligence:
“Approximately one billion years ago, the first rudimentary forms of neuronal information processing began to develop, over five hundred years ago, during the Cambrian period, the evolution of a more complex nervous system combined with advanced visual tracking systems set off the perception catastrophe leading to the organization of the nervous system as an “organ of alienation” capable of generating a designated mental discontinuity. Through this highly regulated mental discontinuity, the organism became able to differentiate regions of space, optimally distinguishing itself from its food and predators. By simultaneously gaining traction on the spatiotemporal continuity of the organism–in reality, a rupture in the continuity of space-time–and the spatio-temporal connectivity, the nervous system enabled the organism to recognize things other than itself, orienting it toward the problem of exploring and making sense of its environment.
With the beginning of neurulation and cephalization processes in the vertebrates, basic computational barriers such as control of combinatorial explosion, construction of models of choice, predictive calculations, simulation of movement and proactive adaptation at the level of the organism were one by one overcome. Eventually the neotenous brain brought the complexity of the nervous system to a new stage. Marked by maximal functional entrenchment, the magnitude of evolutionary diversification–in this case, the addition of extensive structural change–significantly diminished. Maximization of functional entrenchment and reduction in structural diversification of the neotenous brain yet did not constrain the amplification of cognitive processes, but rather forced them (particularly abstraction and simulation) to a new functional vista which is that of the social domain. The development of social cognitive technologies such as tool-use and language solved two of the most significant problems of computation, namely, qualitative compression and stabilization of information necessary for the communal establishment of knowledge and further augmentation and coordination of understanding and action. Qualitative organization and stabilization of information through the formation of concepts as communal components of knowledge transformed the cognitive possibility of knowledge into a social reality, and thus facilitated the acquisition and exploitation of higher levels of cognition otherwise inaccessible from a purely bio-evolutionary standpoint.
However, only less than five hundred years ago, we noticed that we are not living at the center of the universe, slightly more than three hundred years ago we discovered that the fabric of the universe obeys and is held together by physical laws. Only a century and a half ago, we learned we are not children of God and began to investigate its implications–even though to this date, still the religious view on the origin of species is widespread and is vehemently defended. However, just more than a century ago we began to “open up a new continent, that of History, to scientific knowledge”, realizing that not only history can be navigated as a continent of knowledge but also it is an integrating field in which all other forms of knowledge, theoretical and practical, can be fused and reinforce one another. What Louis Althusser hails as Marx’s monumental discovery in the history of human knowledge marks a new stage in the evolution of intelligence, which is that of social intelligence. It is a form of intelligence that liberates new demands and opportunities of ‘what to think’ and ‘what to do’ by sufficiently linking epistemic mediation and socio-political intervention, consolidating both as a functional organization necessary for the social realization of augmented cognition. By theoretically and practically engaging with the question of what it means to have a history, what it means to reorient, reconstitute and repurpose that history through the social’s present normative attitudes toward the past and the future, social intelligence turns into a force for which cognition registers as social re-engineering of the existing reality.
It is the possibility of fusion and implementation of all knowledge within the integrating field of history–spanning from the primitive forms of Spirit to its advanced social forms–that augurs a new form of intelligence for which knowledge must be translated into socio-historical intervention, and intervention as re-engineering the socio-historical reality must deepen the exploration of history, that is the recognition of the past and the integration toward the future.
The discovery of history as a new continent of knowledge where techno-scientific advancement, economy, politics, ethics and social struggle can integrate and reinforce one another is in effect the deepening of the reality of history both in terms of its recollective-retrospective and integrative-prospective dimensions. But deepening of the reality of history is nothing but repurposing and reconstituting it through understanding and intervention. The knowledge of history as a science, as trivial as it may sound, is a hegemonic impulse for on the one hand opening up the recollective-integrative dimensions of history and its social evolution to understanding in the broadest possible sense, and on the other hand intervening with the progression and reality of history by socially implementing this amplifying understanding with no swerve or falter. Failing this we can say that we are not creatures endowed with history and that, more gravely, we are still the denizens of benighted ages where history is a domain as opaque as the inaccessible sky whose ineffability is a source for oppression from the heavens and romanticism or mysticism on earth.
In other words, the knowledge of history as a science is essentially a self-reinforcing tendency toward having a history. But what does it mean to have a history other than reorienting and repurposing it toward future ends unseen by the past whose recognition should never be an impediment but merely a way to liberate the present from its past commitments, either by collectively revising or abandoning them. It is for this reason that Marx’s discovery transforms the pursuit of understanding and intervention, scientific knowledge and social implementation through history into a project where social emancipation and evolution of intelligence entangle, entering into an Odyssean dynamic of reinforcement and mutual diversification. Even though intelligence is natural, short of reorienting, repurposing and reengineering its natural history, it ceases to be intelligent. Yet it remains highly improbable that a robust conception of intelligence can reorient itself toward emancipation without looking into its natural history and working out its exigencies. But an intelligence that does not unfold its own demands which inevitably lead to re-engineering and revising its natural constitution, its multiple realization, is even more implausible. The history of intelligence commandeers its natural history by the history of its obligations and demands, for the history of intelligence is the history of reconstitutions of the natural constitution. The reconstitution of natural history does not violate natural laws but adapts them to new regimes of designed purposes.
Marx’s discovery only over a century ago toward the realization of social intelligence emphasizes the work to be done. Yet more importantly it signifies the truth of our age, that we are merely living in the pre-history of social intelligence. Those who moan and are bored with the pace at which intelligence in general and the self-expediting project of social intelligence in particular are evolving, should look elsewhere either in God or in opiate. The recognition of the hegemony of social intelligence is a collective and common task whose fulfillment is the only true drive toward freedom, both as purposive social freedom and the liberation of a self-apprehending intelligence. The ultimate task of humanity should be to make something better than itself, for what is better than us cultivates itself through our pursuit for the better. Liberate that which liberates itself from you, for anything else is the perpetuation of slavery.
The hegemony of the ultimate task by itself is the expansion of real alternatives and materializes as the maximization of freedom. It is the liberation of intelligence as the principle of summum bonum. It is against the reeking mist of other homebrewed philosophies and social prescriptions (the ardor for the ordinary, resignation, indetermination, anti-logos, neo-luddism, communitarian loacalism, liberal freedom, …) that the hegemony of social intelligence ought to be safeguarded. What is exactly an alternative to social intelligence if not veneration of cognitive turpitude and social vices.”

06 Oct 2014

Hello world!

Reza Negarestani

It is a matter of patiently assisting this Thing from outside as it extracts us unilaterally from spontaneity and decision; in extirpating once and for all what we might call the original spontaneous philosophical illusion – that which consists in the philosopher’s belief – the ‘oldest prejudice’ (more…)

02 Oct 2014

Three new publications on their way, three launch events for November:

On Nov 7th we launch Peter Wolfendale's Object-Oriented Philosophy at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead. More details here.

On Nov 12th we move on to Tate Britain for the launch of Speculative Aesthetics. More details here.

And on Nov 20th, at Spike Island, Bristol, we launch Châtelet's To Live and Think Like Pigs where Robin Mackay will discuss how Châtelet's polemic stands in relation to the perspective of Accelerationisms past and present.More details here.

22 Sep 2014


Readers are reminded that Peter Wolfendale’s new book, Object-Oriented Ontology: The Noumenon’s New Clothes, is now available for pre-order via the Urbanomic website.

22 Sep 2014

We now have copies of Reza Negarestani's essay Torture Concrete for sale in our web store.

Negarestani's essay is published in conjunction with Jean-Luc Moulène's exhibition, Torture Concrete, September 7 – October 26, 2014 at Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York. The text emerged out of a number of conversations between the writer and artist around the theme of abstraction both as a multi-faceted project in the general domain of thought and as a specific process of artistic experimentation. Negarestani sharply asserts abstraction's origins as the dialectic between form (mathematics) and sensible matter (physics) and its otherwise flat interpretation in art history, and presents us with the redemptive possibilities for its enrichment and diversification through the lens of artistic practice.

Negarestani calls into question the 'self-reflexive history of art' as having embezzled this singular definition of abstraction, so that one can no longer link it to its constitutive gesture or procedural coherence, and locates Moulène's work safely at the outer-edges of this 'impoverished' history. He asserts that for Moulène, 'the task of art is rediscovered not in its ostensible autonomy but in its singular power to rearrange and destabilize the configurational relations between parameters of thought, parameters of imagination and material constraints which parameterize the cognitive edifice.'

Moulène seeks to define new objectives for art and to further revise its task using his own working paradigm of topology and dynamic systems. Within the artist's work – the work of systematization of experimentation and producing tools for thinking – Negarestani finds a reassuring pursuit in practice, that of the unearthing of a buried dialectic, and a worthy response to his problematic: 'We've all heard of abstraction, but no one has ever seen one.'

Both men work in search of a means of emancipation from a tortured position (as writer, artist, human). For Moulène, making a change to the body, a change from within, works alongside the notion of thought making a difference in the world. But in order for thought to do this, as Negarestani suggests, 'first it must make a difference in itself–this is where abstraction finds its true vocation.'

19 Sep 2014


Also forthcoming for 2014-15 are several more in the Redactions series, including the long-awaited Hydroplutonic Kernow, documentation of a 2010\’s Geotraumatic bus tour of Cornwall, and When Site Lost the Plot, a transdisciplinary investigation into the remains of the concept of site-specificity.

April 2015 sees publication of Suhail Malik\’s important new work on On The Necessity of Art\’s Exit From Contemporary Art.
And of course, before that, the long long awaited Collapse 8: Casino Real will finally be published (apologies for the delay but, as you can see, we haven\’t been shirking…).
Also we have copies of Reza Negarestani\’s Torture Concrete coming in next week…

19 Sep 2014


Last, but not least, of our new books, published with Sequence Press and scheduled for November publication, is Gilles Châtelet\’s magnificent polemic against neoliberalism, To Live and Think Like Pigs.
In this fiery tract, Châtelet combines the incandescent wrath of the betrayed comrade with the acute discrimination of the mathematician-physicist, scrutinizing the pseudoscientific alibis employed to naturalize \’market democracy\’, and the \’triple alliance\’ between politics, economics, and cybernetics.
Alain Badiou contributes a preface in which he examines how the \’fulminating abstraction\’ at work in this book provides a clue to the link between Châtelet\’s work as a philosopher of science and mathematics and his insistence upon connecting thought to the body and to the question \’What is it to Live?\’

19 Sep 2014


Second of our new publications arriving next month is Speculative Aesthetics, the first of our new Redactions series (see Publications).
Redaction is the process of preparing source material for publication, implying both recall, distillation, and a settling of accounts (Redigere – to bring back, reduce down, call in)
Urbanomic\’s Redactions reprocess live dialogues, rewriting, reconstructing and reassembling archives of past events.
The original participants are invited to revisit, rethink and refine their contributions, which are occasionally supplemented by additional resources to further extend the discussion – a montage of collective research in progress.
This first publication in the series documents and extends the Speculative Aesthetics roundtable, discussing the ramifications of speculative thought for aesthetics, this discussion ranges from contemporary art\’s relation to the aesthetic, to accelerationism and abstraction, logic and design.
The introduction to the book is available to read on the book details page.

19 Sep 2014


Our first new publication is Peter Wolfendale\’s tour de force, Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon\’s New Clothes.
Both a remarkably clear explication of the tenets of OOP and an acute critique of the movement\’s ramifications for philosophy today, Object-Oriented Philosophy is a major engagement with one of the most prevalent trends in recent philosophy. Moving beyond the hype, Peter Wolfendale considers its emergence in the light of the intertwined legacies of twentieth-century analytic and Continental traditions.
Ray Brassier contributes a postscript that faces the legacy of Speculative Realism and OOO head-on, conducting a \’Speculative Autopsy\’ on a movement that was, as Wolfendale states, \’dead on arrival\’.

19 Sep 2014


We are very excited to announce a number of new Urbanomic publications for 2014-15. Please click on the link above for our new catalogue, which features some great photos from Urbanomic readers of our books in various exotic locations from Bogota to Tokyo, Iceland to Aruba!
More details on each of the new titles to follow… if you can\’t wait, check out the Publications page.

09 Sep 2014

We are about to send out our trade catalogue with new titles for 2014-15. Once again we invite you to recommend bookstores worldwide where you would like to see Urbanomic titles in stock. Please email bookstores@urbanomic.com with your suggestions. Thanks!

09 Sep 2014

Kant&mirror.jpg
My text on Moulène, abstraction and embodied thought experiments is published by Sequence Press and can be ordered through their website.

04 Sep 2014

In response to many requests, we have been preparing all the previous volumes of Collapse into ebook format; they will be published progressively, beginning with Collapse 1: Numerical Materialism later this month.
In rereading Collapse 1 (2006) it occurred to us that the first piece Urbanomic published by Reza Negarestani, The Militarization of Peace: Absence of Terror or Terror of Absence? deserves to be widely reread today, so we have made this article available as a preview epub: Download here.

04 Sep 2014

This is the abstract of my forthcoming talk at A Culture Beyond Crisis workshop, organized by Goethe-Institut Los Angeles and The School of Critical Studies, CalArt.
Venue: October 25 at the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, 5750 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 100, Los Angeles CA 90036, phone +1 323 525338, time: 10.30 am – 1:00pm

***


What Does It Mean to Think a Catastrophe
This presentation revolves around two lines of inquiry: What is precisely a catastrophe? And is every catastrophe a crisis?
By answering the first question, this presentation attempts to investigate the imports of a catastrophe for cognition. Following the works René Thom, Jean Petitot, Wolfgang Wildgen, Lorenzo Magnani and recent works in conceptualization of processes (see Johanna Seibt, Svend Østergaard, et al.), we propose that not only cognitive systems use catastrophes – induced or natural – to organize information and generate semantic opportunities through which they can evolve, but also cognition as such is a generative catastrophe par excellence. Once the concept of catastrophe is sufficiently elaborated, it is then possible to tackle the second question, namely, if a catastrophe is a cognitive opportunity and if cognition is a generative catastrophe that must always be kept in a fragile state of equilibrium, then should we treat socio-political crises as windows of opportunity for understanding and action? We shall argue that engaging this question in the absence of a detailed and critical differentiation between catastrophe and crisis, between different types of stability and instability results in two predominant pathologies in thinking and acting upon crises. At one extreme, the conflation will lead to a rampant affirmationist position for which every rupture in socio-cultural fabric is seen as an engine of change or a potential positive singularity (cf. the philosophy of right-accelerationism). At the other pole, short of an adequate approach to map the distinctions and connections between the two, socio-political resignation or fundamentalist conservatism become the principle attitudes. Every catastrophe or singularity is immediately staved off as a threat. Novel approaches to crises are discarded in favor of trifling local solutions or worse, the all-encompassing impotence of resignation: Let’s act in our immediate environment or let it be. As an alterative to these two extremes, this presentation aims at putting forward a third alternative built on a fine-grained map between catastrophe and crisis where the cognitive and critical opportunities, singularities and obstructions (or failures) fuse in order to delineate new affordances of action.

26 Aug 2014

JLM.jpg Jean-Luc Moulène
Torture Concrete

September 7 – October 26, 2014
Opening reception: Sunday, September 7, 6-8 PM
Miguel Abreu Gallery
88 Eldridge Street / 36 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
212.995.1774 , post@miguelabreugallery.com



“Anyone who does not recognize and embrace the formal cruelty of thought is not fit for the labor of abstraction. Anyone who is not suited to the labor of abstraction cannot liberate thought from its idleness and from its oppressive determination by its own present image i.e. what it is or what it is supposed to be. […]
The greatest merit of Moulène’s work is that he is perhaps the only living artist whose entire project is systematically devoted to changing the transformative dimension of thought by manipulating and disturbing the general configuration of its structure – that is, the relation between its tendencies and local instantiations. For him, the task of art is rediscovered not in its ostensible autonomy but in its singular power to rearrange and destabilize the configurational relations between parameters of thought, parameters of imagination and material constraints that structure and parameterize the cognitive edifice. It is this configurational instability that allows for the transition of thought to a new stage by widening its scope of synthesis (i.e. the differentiation and integration of thought). However, the evolving task of art can never be entirely approached from within art itself as a particular mode of thought, but only in the context of the general structure of thought that makes such a task possible and renders it consequential in terms of the role it plays for the transformation of thought. This is where, by approaching the task of art in terms of the self-transformative capacities and opportunities of thought – its propensity to systematically be cruel to itself, to violently rise above what determines it – Moulène makes two consequential moves: Firstly, he attempts to redefine the consequentiality of art in terms of what makes the task of art possible and legitimizes such a task within a much broader context. Secondly, by approaching the designated task of art by way of the general configuration that enables such a task (i.e. the positive destabilizing-stabilizing loop through which thought finds new answers to perennial questions of ‘what to think’ and ‘what to do’), Moulène seeks to outline new objectives for art and to revise its task.
The entire task of thought is to redefine its functional roles and cumulatively liberate itself from the grip of any external cause that determines it and any telos that limits its functional ascension. A local field of thought – be it art or philosophy – that does not reinvent its task in order to adapt to this general goal has no justification whatsoever for its existence. Just as biological evolution has no tolerance for the lack of functional adaptation, the functional evolution of thought has no patience for a mode of thought that refuses to rise to the status of the noetic structure that supports it. A specific mode of thought that does not raise itself to the general status of thought is obsolete and will be weeded out by the very thought that once enabled it.” (Torture Concrete: Jean-Luc Moulène and the protocol of abstraction)

08 Aug 2014

Let\’s make Urbanomic\’s 2014-15 catalogue look good. Send your photos to us at office@urbanomic.com. If your photo is used you get free copies of new 2014-15 publications! All resolutions considered!

01 Aug 2014

07 Jul 2014

The introduction to #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader is now available to read online here.

05 Jul 2014

Turing-manuscript.jpg
Here is the first part of my talk at Incredible Machines conference on Turing and the problem of computational description. I will also post my second presentation at the Berlin summer school (on functions, mechanisms and hierarchies).
For anyone who has not seen it yet, there is an excellent blog on the Berlin summer school covering the ongoing presentations and discussions.

***

The revolution is back
(Turing, functional realization and computational description)

I philosophically endorse computationalism and even more so I am an ardent proponent of functionalism. I think–and I am fully prepared to defend this controversial claim–that a philosopher cannot intellectually survive without endorsing functionalism, at least one of its many varieties (strongly normative [Hegel, Brandom], normative-materially constrained [Sellars] or strongly mechanistic [Bechtel]). To this extent, what I would like to briefly address is the significance of the functionalist account of the human mind, or more broadly speaking, the functionalist account of the rational agency. In this respect, I take side with Alan Turing’s response to Arguments from Various Disabilities (AVD) where he challenges the common forms of rejecting the possibility of the functional realization of the human mind in different substrates–for instance, in machines.
Machines cannot think, machines cannot have emotions, machines cannot be purposeful, they cannot be proactive and so forth: Turing enumerates these under what he calls arguments from various disabilities, it is sort of straw machine argument that is baseless and precarious. It is more a fruit of our psychological fears and residual theological approaches to the universe and ourselves than the result of sound arguments.
The mind-preservationist is a person who believes that the mind cannot be functionally realized and implemented in different substrates. He is a person who not only rejects the functionalist realization of the mind but also as a result yields to a form of vitalism or ineffability of the human mind. The mind-preservationist always attempts to see the machine’s capacities from the perspective of an endemic disability. But if what the mind-preservationist really dismisses is not the machine as such but is the functional realization of the mind implemented in the machine, then what he actually denies is not the machine per se but the mind itself. Or more accurately, what the mind-preservationist ends up rejecting is the possibility of mapping the mind’s functions, the possibility of modeling it, defining and objectifying it. In this sense, machine-denialism is simply an excuse for denying what the mind is and what it can be. Correspondingly, disavowing the pursuit of understanding the mind coincides with acting against the evolution of the mind, since from a pragmatic-functional viewpoint the understanding of the meaning of the mind is inseparable from how the mind can be defined, reconstructed and modified in different contexts. Therefore, if we lack the definition of the mind which is itself a map for its realization and objectification, then how can we so readily rule out the possibility of a machine furnished with a mind? The mind-preservationist, accordingly, has a double standard when it comes to recognizing the mind as both the measure and the object of his critique. He says the machine cannot engage in mental activities as if he possesses the map of the mind. However, if he does not know what constitutes activities of the mind, which is to say, if he does not possess the functional map of the mind, then he cannot approach the functional account of the mind (that is, a mind realized by a different set of realizers and implemented in an environment different from its natural-biological habitat) from the perspective of an intrinsic disability.
If you don’t know what the mind is then how can you claim the machine cannot possibly have a mind? With the understanding that the ‘what’ posed in this question is the very map of the mind’s functional realizability that can be implemented in machines. Here ‘what’ can be described functionally as those activities which define what the mind is. The mind is therefore described as a functional item, in terms of its capacities for mentation (i.e. engaging in mental activities). From a functionalist perspective, what makes a thing a thing is not what a thing is but what a thing does. In other words, the functional item is not independent of its activity.
The activities of the mind are indeed special in the sense that they are not ubiquitous. But as William Bechtel suggests it is not in spite of being comprised of mechanisms but in virtue of the right kind of mechanisms that the mind is special and its set of activities has distinctive characteristics.
For this reason, if the attack or the argument from the perspective of disabilities is adopted as a standard strategy toward machines or what Daniel Dennett calls “machine mentation” or if it is exercised as a pre-determined reaction to the possibility of the realization of the mind in different substrates, then it no longer enjoys a genuine critical attitude. Why? Because such a critical strategy then has implicitly subscribed itself to a preservationist view of the mind as something inherently foreclosed to mapping and (re)construction. The mind it safeguards has a special status because it is unique at the level of mapping and constructability. It cannot be constructed, because it cannot be fully mapped. It cannot be mapped because it cannot be defined. It cannot be defined because it is somewhere ineffable. If it is somewhere ineffable, then it is everywhere ineffable. Therefore, the singularity of the mind is the effect of its ineffability. If we buy into one ineffable thing and if that thing happens to be central to how we perceive the world, then we are also prepared to regard many other things in the universe as ineffable. Consequently, we have committed ourselves to full-blown mysticism.

(more…)

04 Jul 2014

The revolution is back

Reza Negarestani

Turing-manuscript.jpg

Here is the first part of my talk at Incredible Machines conference on Turing and the problem of computational description. I will also post my second presentation at the Berlin summer school (on functions, mechanisms and hierarchies).

For anyone who has not seen it yet, there is an excellent blog on the Berlin summer school covering the ongoing presentations and discussions.

***

The revolution is back
(Turing, functional realization and computational description)

I philosophically endorse computationalism and even more so I am an ardent proponent of functionalism. I think–and I am fully prepared to defend this controversial claim–that a philosopher cannot intellectually survive without endorsing functionalism, at least one of its many varieties (strongly normative [Hegel, Brandom], normative-materially constrained [Sellars] or strongly mechanistic [Bechtel]). To this extent, what I would like to briefly address is the significance of the functionalist account of the human mind, or more broadly speaking, the functionalist account of the rational agency. In this respect, I take side with Alan Turing’s response to Arguments from Various Disabilities (AVD) where he challenges the common forms of rejecting the possibility of the functional realization of the human mind in different substrates–for instance, in machines.

Machines cannot think, machines cannot have emotions, machines cannot be purposeful, they cannot be proactive and so forth: Turing enumerates these under what he calls arguments from various disabilities, it is sort of straw machine argument that is baseless and precarious. It is more a fruit of our psychological fears and residual theological approaches to the universe and ourselves than the result of sound arguments.

The mind-preservationist is a person who believes that the mind cannot be functionally realized and implemented in different substrates. He is a person who not only rejects the functionalist realization of the mind but also as a result yields to a form of vitalism or ineffability of the human mind. The mind-preservationist always attempts to see the machine’s capacities from the perspective of an endemic disability. But if what the mind-preservationist really dismisses is not the machine as such but is the functional realization of the mind implemented in the machine, then what he actually denies is not the machine per se but the mind itself. Or more accurately, what the mind-preservationist ends up rejecting is the possibility of mapping the mind’s functions, the possibility of modeling it, defining and objectifying it. In this sense, machine-denialism is simply an excuse for denying what the mind is and what it can be. Correspondingly, disavowing the pursuit of understanding the mind coincides with acting against the evolution of the mind, since from a pragmatic-functional viewpoint the understanding of the meaning of the mind is inseparable from how the mind can be defined, reconstructed and modified in different contexts. Therefore, if we lack the definition of the mind which is itself a map for its realization and objectification, then how can we so readily rule out the possibility of a machine furnished with a mind? The mind-preservationist, accordingly, has a double standard when it comes to recognizing the mind as both the measure and the object of his critique. He says the machine cannot engage in mental activities as if he possesses the map of the mind. However, if he does not know what constitutes activities of the mind, which is to say, if he does not possess the functional map of the mind, then he cannot approach the functional account of the mind (that is, a mind realized by a different set of realizers and implemented in an environment different from its natural-biological habitat) from the perspective of an intrinsic disability.

If you don’t know what the mind is then how can you claim the machine cannot possibly have a mind? With the understanding that the ‘what’ posed in this question is the very map of the mind’s functional realizability that can be implemented in machines. Here ‘what’ can be described functionally as those activities which define what the mind is. The mind is therefore described as a functional item, in terms of its capacities for mentation (i.e. engaging in mental activities). From a functionalist perspective, what makes a thing a thing is not what a thing is but what a thing does. In other words, the functional item is not independent of its activity.

The activities of the mind are indeed special in the sense that they are not ubiquitous. But as William Bechtel suggests it is not in spite of being comprised of mechanisms but in virtue of the right kind of mechanisms that the mind is special and its set of activities has distinctive characteristics.

For this reason, if the attack or the argument from the perspective of disabilities is adopted as a standard strategy toward machines or what Daniel Dennett calls “machine mentation” or if it is exercised as a pre-determined reaction to the possibility of the realization of the mind in different substrates, then it no longer enjoys a genuine critical attitude. Why? Because such a critical strategy then has implicitly subscribed itself to a preservationist view of the mind as something inherently foreclosed to mapping and (re)construction. The mind it safeguards has a special status because it is unique at the level of mapping and constructability. It cannot be constructed, because it cannot be fully mapped. It cannot be mapped because it cannot be defined. It cannot be defined because it is somewhere ineffable. If it is somewhere ineffable, then it is everywhere ineffable. Therefore, the singularity of the mind is the effect of its ineffability. If we buy into one ineffable thing and if that thing happens to be central to how we perceive the world, then we are also prepared to regard many other things in the universe as ineffable. Consequently, we have committed ourselves to full-blown mysticism.

26 Jun 2014

I will be in Berlin for the first few sessions of the summer school (details here). My first talk will revolve around the following texts:
G. Chatelet, On a Little Phrase of Riemann’s…, trans. Robin Mackay (Available here:
http://blog.urbanomic.com/cyclon/Chatelet_local-global.pdf)
R. Negarestani, Where is the Concept? (Available here: http://blog.urbanomic.com/cyclon/Navigation-2013.pdf)

Below are the abstracts for my two presentations on July 1st:
Session one: The Matheme of the Universal
This presentation aims to introduce some of the recent advances in mathematics and concept-analysis through an accessible conceptual history shaped by philosophical questions surrounding topics such as particularity, universality, analysis, synthesis, orientation, quantity, quality and theory of extension. By answering these questions it would be possible to reinvent the dialectic between particularity and universality as the transition from the local to the global, therefore moving from a theory of universality to a theory of connections (Levi-Civita, Cartan, et al.) where stepwise local constructions can be coupled with a global orientation. While the transition to local-global connections resolves certain antagonisms between the local and the universal, it creates a productive space of tension through which the local can be explored beyond its immediate ambit. It is this exploratory vector that opens the local-global passage as a rule-based landscape of navigation.
Session two: Engineering through Navigation
Why are functions important, especially in the study of complex phenomena or hierarchical and multi-layered systems where complexity arises not because of the size or the number of components or processes involved but because of the particularity of the mode of organization that orchestrates the activities and operations of various structural and functional hierarchies? One answer to this question would be because any account of change – whether in the context of evolution or in the context of normative modification, intervention, rectification and reorganization – is ultimately the change in function. Even when we change the structure, we do that with the aim of inducing a change in function i.e. what a thing does and how it can be improved or replaced by a different set of activities. But the change of function is far from easy since we need to locate the exact function we are referring to within a much wider functional organization, within an environment and in accordance with existing structural constraints. What a complex system appears to be doing is hardly ever what it actually does. In order to implement a change in function, first we should identify what a system does, how it does it, how its functions are organized and how the activity in question is orchestrated through this complex organization. In other words, we must have the knowledge of ‘what a system does’ in order to change a function and alter a system’s or a phenomenon’s behavior. This presentation extends the ‘navigational paradigm’ to questions regarding construction and modification of complex systems through the lenses of mechanistic explanation and multi-level analysis of functional organization.
Date and location: July 1-12, 2014, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin

13 May 2014

We have something of a backlog but all advance orders for #Accelerate should be sent out this week. Thanks for your patience. The e-book edition is coming as soon as we negotiate the hurdles erected by the itunes and Amazon monopolies.

02 May 2014

14 May @enclaveprojects: #Accelerate w/WORDS:@benedict @lemonbloodycola @deontologistics v-reza +NOISE:starkton @tomtrevatt frankiesolar

24 Apr 2014

Owing to technical hitches in printing, publication date for #Accelerate now May 8 – our apologies. Please feel free to comment wryly on irony of situation.

18 Mar 2014

in response to queries, yes there will be an ebook edn of #Accelerate published in parallel with print edn

02 Mar 2014

As part of an event organized by Glass Bead (Fabien Giraud, Jeremy Lecomte, Vincent Normand, Ida Soulard, Inigo Wilkins) and Composing Differences (curated by Virginie Bobin), Guerino Mazzola and I will be presenting talks on philosophy, mathematics, games and the paradigm of navigation. Here is my abstract (I will post Mazzola’s abstract later):
cognitive_demons.gif
What Philosophy Does to the Mind
By entering the game of truths – that is, making sense of what is true and making it true – and approaching it as a rule-based game of navigation, philosophy opens up a new evolutionary vista for the transformation of the mind. Within this evolutionary landscape, the mind is grasped as a set of activities or practices required to navigate and adapt to a terrain which lacks a given map and a given compass, a desert bereft of natural landmarks, with a perpetually shifting scenery and furnished with transitory mirages. The mind is forced to adapt to an environment where generic trajectories replace specific trajectories and where the consequences of making one move unfold as future ramifying paths that not only uproot the current position in the landscape but also fundamentally change the travel history and the address of the past itinerary. It is within this environment that philosophy instigates an epochal development of yet unexplored and obscure possibilities: By simulating the truth of the mind as a navigational horizon, philosophy sets out the conditions for the emancipation of the mind from its contingently posited settings and limits of constructability. Philosophy’s ancient program for exploring the mind becomes inseparable from the exploration of possibilities for reconstructing and realizing the mind by different realizers and for different purposes.
In liberating itself from its illusions of ineffability and irreproducible uniqueness, and by apprehending itself as an upgradable armamentarium of practices or abilities, the mind realizes itself as an expanding constructible edifice that effectuates a mind-only system. But this is a system that is no longer comprehensible within the traditional ambit of idealism, for it involves ‘mind’ not as a theoretical object but as a practical project of socio-historical wisdom or augmented general intelligence.
Throughout this presentation we shall lay out the minimal characteristics and procedures of the game of navigation by drawing on the works of Gilles Châtelet (the construction of a horizon), Guerino Mazzola (a dynamic theory of addresses) and Robert Brandom (the procedural system of commitments). We shall subsequently unpack the consequences of playing this game in terms of the transition from self-conception to self-transformation of the mind as outlined by the New Confucian philosophers Xiong Shili and Mou Zongsan.

Date: April 22nd, 7-9pm.
Location:
311 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002, USA
Sponsored by ART² and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

19 Feb 2014
Gyroscopic-Concept.jpg

I will be giving a number of presentations in Vancouver surrounding the navigational paradigm (as related to the ramifying structure of commitments, the non-classical portrait of the concept and the space of knowledge). Abstracts below:

(more…)

03 Feb 2014

functions_small.jpg

Function: Decomposition, Localization, Abstraction
Speakers: Ray Brassier, Reza Negarestani
Although principally associated with a thesis in the philosophy of mind, functionalism has wide-ranging ramifications. The concept of “functional role” or “functional organization” ties together a metaphysical problem about the basis of the distinction between matter and form, an epistemic problem about how to distinguish semantic content from physical information, and an engineering problem about the relation between structural and functional properties. This workshop will try to unravel the metaphysical, epistemic, and engineering aspects of functionalism by developing themes from the work of philosophers including William Bechtel, Robert Brandom, Wilfrid Sellars, and William Wimsatt.
Date and Time: March 25, 2014, 6:30pm
Location:
Wollman Hall, The New School
66 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10011
This is a free event and open to the public.
Seating is limited: You can order tickets via Eventbrite.

25 Jan 2014

This is a revised and extended version of a short piece I wrote a while ago for Mohammad Salemy’s project Encyclonospace Iranica. Salemy’s project is a reconceptualization of the modern model of knowledge as an encyclospace, or a dynamic universe for the qualitative organization of information and the proliferation and navigation of its knowledge-bases. This is of course a far too reductive description of Salemy’s project and its ambitions. A good place to start with Salemy’s project is its documentation website, and also here.

***

The text in PDF.
Navigate With Extreme Prejudice
(Definitions and Ramifications)

•  Traditionally, philosophy is an ascetic cognitive experimentation in abstract (general) intelligence. As an ascesis in cognition, it concerns with grasping the mind in terms of a diversifiable set of abilities or practices whose deployment counts as what the mind is and what it does: special doings that one must undertake in order to count as organizing the intellect and setting in motion the faculty of thinking. By abstracting the mind to a set of practices, philosophy experiments with possibilities occasioned by decomposing the behavior of the mind into special performances or practices. The opportunities brought about by this practical decomposability are numerous and are still largely unidentified. The schema of this functionalist abstraction has at least two immediate implications. One is that by decomposing the mind to a set of practices, philosophy is able to envision itself as a veritable environment for an augmented nous precisely in the sense of a systematic experiment in mind simulation. Therefore, the mind is conceived – less in the sense of what it is and more in the sense what it does and what it can do – beyond its immediate or hard constraints. In other words, philosophy simultaneously expands the scope of experimentation with the mind and the scope of what mind can be and what it can do. The other implication is that by decomposing the mind into a set of practices, philosophy progressively registers itself as the domain of practical wisdom rather than theoretical wisdom, where ‘mind as a theoretical object’ is replaced by ‘mind as a system of practices’. Already pregnant of pragmatic-functionalist and social-communal gestures, the practical decomposability of mind, accordingly, transforms philosophy into a domain of practical wisdom and by so doing, it allows the understanding and manipulation of the mind as a collective enterprise of robust social practices. Once mind is mapped on the level of social practices, manipulation of the social fabric in the sense of diversifying robust social practices, design of new social conducts and administration of social organizations leads to the constructive manipulation, or more precisely, practical abstraction of the mind as a collective horizon. Indeed, philosophy establishes a link between intelligence and modes of collectivization, in a way that liberation, organization and complexification of the latter implies new odysseys for the former, which is to say, intelligence and the evolution of the nous. In this way, philosophy presents the first collective model of general intelligence according to which ‘what intelligence is’ and ‘how it can be liberated’ are no longer exclusively sought in the workings of the mind as a strongly structurally-coupled entity. In other words, its embedding in materiality (i.e. embodiment) and natural design (i.e. optimization principles associated with natural evolution) are no longer adequate criteria for its identification and liberation. Instead the reality of intelligence (what it is and what it can be) is found in the strongly functional realm of ‘mind as a system of collective practices’ which, by virtue of the function’s autonomy with regard to conditions of its constitution, is capable of proliferating itself in new complex structures and organizations. It is the collective instantiation inherent to this model that provides intelligence with a certain plasticity that can be modified, distributed, facilitated, even expedited. To sum up, by concurrently treating the mind as a vector of extreme abstraction and abstracting the mind into a set of social practices and conducts, philosophy gesticulates toward a particular and not yet fully comprehended event in the modern epoch – as opposed to traditional forms – of intelligence: The self-realization of intelligence coincides and is implicitly linked with the self-realization of social collectivity. The single most significant historical objective is then postulated as the activation and elaboration of this link between the two aforementioned dimensions of self-realization as ultimately one unified project.

(more…)

25 Jan 2014

What is philosophy?

Reza Negarestani

This is a revised and extended version of a short piece I wrote a while ago for Mohammad Salemy’s project Encyclonospace Iranica. Salemy’s project is a reconceptualization of the modern model of knowledge as an encyclospace, or a dynamic universe for the qualitative organization of information and the proliferation and navigation of its knowledge-bases. This is of course a far too reductive description of Salemy’s project and its ambitions. A good place to start with Salemy’s project is its documentation website, and also here.


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The text in PDF.

Navigate With Extreme Prejudice
(Definitions and Ramifications)

•  Traditionally, philosophy is an ascetic cognitive experimentation in abstract (general) intelligence. As an ascesis in cognition, it concerns with grasping the mind in terms of a diversifiable set of abilities or practices whose deployment counts as what the mind is and what it does: special doings that one must undertake in order to count as organizing the intellect and setting in motion the faculty of thinking. By abstracting the mind to a set of practices, philosophy experiments with possibilities occasioned by decomposing the behavior of the mind into special performances or practices. The opportunities brought about by this practical decomposability are numerous and are still largely unidentified. The schema of this functionalist abstraction has at least two immediate implications. One is that by decomposing the mind to a set of practices, philosophy is able to envision itself as a veritable environment for an augmented nous precisely in the sense of a systematic experiment in mind simulation. Therefore, the mind is conceived – less in the sense of what it is and more in the sense what it does and what it can do – beyond its immediate or hard constraints. In other words, philosophy simultaneously expands the scope of experimentation with the mind and the scope of what mind can be and what it can do. The other implication is that by decomposing the mind into a set of practices, philosophy progressively registers itself as the domain of practical wisdom rather than theoretical wisdom, where ‘mind as a theoretical object’ is replaced by ‘mind as a system of practices’. Already pregnant of pragmatic-functionalist and social-communal gestures, the practical decomposability of mind, accordingly, transforms philosophy into a domain of practical wisdom and by so doing, it allows the understanding and manipulation of the mind as a collective enterprise of robust social practices. Once mind is mapped on the level of social practices, manipulation of the social fabric in the sense of diversifying robust social practices, design of new social conducts and administration of social organizations leads to the constructive manipulation, or more precisely, practical abstraction of the mind as a collective horizon. Indeed, philosophy establishes a link between intelligence and modes of collectivization, in a way that liberation, organization and complexification of the latter implies new odysseys for the former, which is to say, intelligence and the evolution of the nous. In this way, philosophy presents the first collective model of general intelligence according to which ‘what intelligence is’ and ‘how it can be liberated’ are no longer exclusively sought in the workings of the mind as a strongly structurally-coupled entity. In other words, its embedding in materiality (i.e. embodiment) and natural design (i.e. optimization principles associated with natural evolution) are no longer adequate criteria for its identification and liberation. Instead the reality of intelligence (what it is and what it can be) is found in the strongly functional realm of ‘mind as a system of collective practices’ which, by virtue of the function’s autonomy with regard to conditions of its constitution, is capable of proliferating itself in new complex structures and organizations. It is the collective instantiation inherent to this model that provides intelligence with a certain plasticity that can be modified, distributed, facilitated, even expedited. To sum up, by concurrently treating the mind as a vector of extreme abstraction and abstracting the mind into a set of social practices and conducts, philosophy gesticulates toward a particular and not yet fully comprehended event in the modern epoch – as opposed to traditional forms – of intelligence: The self-realization of intelligence coincides and is implicitly linked with the self-realization of social collectivity. The single most significant historical objective is then postulated as the activation and elaboration of this link between the two aforementioned dimensions of self-realization as ultimately one unified project.

10 Jan 2014

Seneca
Two upcoming talks at Merve (Berlin) and Staedelschule (Frankfurt), abstracts and details below:

How Can You Make Me Better?

“Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Building on a now neglected tradition of philosophy as a discipline for forging questions whose sheer insinuative power does something irreversible to the mind, this discussion entertains the idea of posing a question so extreme it would not leave any room for a neutral attitude. Posed at the intersection of philosophy as an experiment in the ascesis of cognition and ethics as a design of conduct, the inciting and hypothetical dimensions of this question are concealed within the informal demand of an innocent query or solicitation: “How can you make me better?”
Being the central inquiry of a number of ancient programs of ethics such as Cynicism, Stoicism, Confucianism and more recently New Confucianism (Shili, Zongsan, Junyi, et al.), the solicitation for enhancement or the demand for the better is progressively unfolded as an instigation of a project of self-realization. By arguing that these ethical regimen theoretically and practically treat virtues and constructive relationships as functions and motivations as orientations, and in so doing they endow enhancing forms of conduct with a certain functional autonomy, we propose that ethics can be redefined as a functionalist program furnished with a canonical orientation. Closely associated with the philosophical foundations of artificial intelligence, this is functionalism in the sense of abstract realizability of the roles functions play in complex systems so that the multi-state function of a set of practices or abilities can be adequately abstracted for the purpose of re-adaptation in different and broader contexts. By virtue of their abstract realizability, functions enjoy a form of autonomy that enables their extraction and replication, autonomous redeployment in different contexts and autonomous remobilization toward new purposes. The neo-functionalist reimagining of ethics brings about the possibility of understanding the pursuit of the self for the better or self-realization as an autonomous project, in the sense of what functional autonomy is and what the integrating orientation of a project consists of. The project is accordingly construed as a functional organization possessing a global integrity that allows for its characterization as a canonical subjectivity, a constructible self that displays historic and social features of “essentially self-conscious creatures” (Brandom). It is this collaborative or open-source self as a project through which the better – as that which is other than the previous and the current state of the self or even human – commences its self-realization and its destiny. As rooted in a secular enterprise of improvement through engagement with a non-conservable account of the present adapted to the revisionary rather than redemptive forces of the future, ethics highlights the truth and practical dimensions of what intelligence is and how it can be liberated: Intelligence is defined as that which normatively believes what is good for it, it desires it, and committedly acts on how to maintain and enhance the good. To seal the gap between believing what is true and making it true, it devises functions capable of practically elaborating intentional states toward action and realization. Since functions are independent of conditions of constitution, constructing the functional link between intentional states and realization means that intelligence establishes itself as a project that continuously revises what it was supposed to be, it knows itself by disbelieving in its foundations, it attains freedom by reconstituting itself.
Monday, January 13, 2013 7pm
-Städelschule-
Dürerstr. 10, 60596 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Zongsan-Junyi
“Its [New Confucianism] primary purpose is individual and communal self-realization with a view toward Heaven” -Tu Weiming

The Labour of the Inhuman
Inhumanism is the extended practical elaboration of humanism; it is born out of a diligent commitment to the project of humanism. A universal wave that erases the self-portrait of man drawn in sand, inhumanism is a vector of revision, it relentlessly revises what it means to be human by removing its supposed evident characteristics and preserving certain invariances. At the same time, inhumanism registers itself as a demand for construction, to define what it means to be human by treating human as a manipulable and re-orientable hypothesis. Inhumanism is in concrete opposition to any theoretical paradigm that seeks to degrade humanity either in the face of its finitude or against the backdrop of the great outdoors. The force of inhumanism operates as a retroactive deterrence against anti-humanism by understanding humanity historically – in the broadest physico-biological and socio-economical sense of history – as an indispensable runway toward itself. But what is humanism, or precisely speaking, what specific commitment does ‘being human’ represent and how does the full practical elaboration of this commitment to humanity amount to inhumanism?
Sunday, January 12, 2013 7pm
MERVE Verlag, Crellestrasse 22, 10827 Berlin