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Friday, 5 September 2014

Anthropocide: the alternative to anthropocentrism and to anthropomorphism

I always thought Meillassoux and Brassier provided an alternative both to correlationism anthropocentrism and to the anthropomorphism that is frequent among metaphysicians of the subjectivity. (To be sure, I'm not sure anthropomorphism is necessarily present in those metaphysicians and often I think that Descola's animism - for example - is only badly described as anthropomorphism, but this is another story.) The alternative is to find a way for the absolute, and not the human capacities, to be the measure of everything. To go, so to speak, beyond the focus on us through what relates to us or through what resembles us.

Yesterday, while discussing the origins of the Modern idea of nature in my course on Descola, we talked about the enlightenment take on a disenchanted of nature. Descola glosses very little on elements for an archeology of nature in his chapter three: perspective in landscape, Aristotle and the (post-Montaigne) intellectual atmosphere before the 17th century scientific revolution play a role. There are, to be sure, other elements but somehow they lead to the disenchantment idea. Then I started thinking about what Brassier does in his Nihil Unbound, chapter 2 where he critiques attempts to reentrant nature (in Adorno and Horkheimer). Brassier is a clear defender of a disenchanted nature and I found myself praising the mosaic he assembles in the book: the Churchlands, Laurelle, Meillassoux and Freud. It is a cornucopia placed in the service of his extinction thesis - that can be understood as disenchanting the human. Anthopocide. That is, not only there are no spirits (subjectivities, agents, monads, entelechies, intentionality) in nature but also there is no cultural dimension that contrasts to it. Laruelle is an important element to invoke here - and this is where his position contrasts with Meillassoux's. Laruelle's notion of determination in the last instance makes thought no more than a point where there is a confluence of objects making themselves present. The Churchlands are relevant too: eliminate belief and desire and rather teach everyone to describe themselves in neurophysiological ways. The appeal to spirits (or believing and desiring agents, subjects, first-person perspectives) are just illusions to be dispelled. Naturalism: nothing but nature. Disenchantment has to be defended and taken one step further: there should be no realm contrasted with the spirit-less domain. Brassier's extinction thesis is a form of naturalism in Descola's sense. But it prevents a straightforward dilemma between anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism. Maybe the options are naturalism or anthropomorphism. Or, rather, naturalism or animism. But then we're quickly swimming in Descola's waters.

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