Tony D. Sampson’s response

It was just recently that I found out that Tony D. Sampson, the author of Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks, has written a response to my review of the book – as it appeared in the previous issue of Parallax. The response is surely interesting and thought-provoking. In a brief reaction to the criticism it puts forward, I would like to emphasize that if it accuses me of mis-reading the book, the whole point of my review was that, as a reader of the book, I was (too) easily led to mis-read it. Be that as it may, I was honored to read Sampson’s response and I will try to come to grasps with his comments.


Gilbert Simondon


After several months of complete silence – finally an update…

I have been very busy during the last few months (take notice of the ‘recent articles’ section), but now fully determined to get back into the realm of blog-o-sphere-existence. Because I’m currently working on an essay-review of two books on Simondon – the re-issue of Pascal Chabot’s The Philosophy of Simondon and the (great!) Gilbert Simondon: Being and Technology (edited by Arne de Boever et.al.) – my first aim is to re-re-update the list of on-line translations of his articles. Ever since I first started this list somewhere between the end of 2012 and early 2013 a truly (read; non-electronic) Simondon revival has taken place – which, of course, can only be applauded!


The Anthropocene Project

This sounds interesting: the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin is organizing an event called ‘The Anthropocene Project’ which takes as its core statement the ‘Anthropocene thesis, announcing a paradigm shift in the natural sciences as well as providing new thought models for culture, politics and everyday life [..] The basis for the Anthropocene as our current geological epoch rests on the claim that humankind is the driving power behind planetary transformation’.

Speakers include artists, theoreticians etc. such as Rem Koolhaas, Lorraine Daston and John Law.

More on the event here.

Peter Osborne, Radical Philosophy, Zizek

More than everything / less than nothing

Today I came across Peter Osborne’s brave review of Slavoj Zizek’s heavy-weight magnus-opus Less Than Nothing in Radical Philosophy. The review reads like a true ‘Everything you were always uncomfortable about in Zizek (but were afraid to proclaim)’ with numerous passages like the following:

‘That said, Less Than Nothing is carefully, if some­what gauchely structured, as the story of a seduction. It begins with ‘The Drink Before’ (Part I): some emblematic, fast-forward philosophical prehistory -Plato, Christianity, Fichte. It progresses to ‘The Thing Itself, in two parts: Hegel and Lacan. And it ends with ‘The Cigarette After’ (Part IV), during which smoke is puffed in the faces of some competing philosophical positions: Badiou, Heidegger and ‘The Ontology of Quantum Physics”.

‘The Conclusion – presumably ‘A Quick Exit’, before things get complicated – is a restatement of Žižek’s own version of Lacanian politics (‘The Political Suspension of the Ethical’) with various other bits and pieces thrown in along the way’.


Latour video on The Modes of Existence project

A video of Bruno Latour elaborating on his new ‘An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence’.


“The Modes of Existence project: an exercise in collective inquiry and digital humanities” – by Bruno Latour, 6 November 2012.

Understanding Society Lecture Series, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge

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Bernard Stiegler, Bruno Latour, Materialism, Noortje Marres, Ontological Politics, Open: Cahier on Art and the Public Domain, Performativity

Open: Cahier on Art and the Public Domain. No 24: Politics of Things (What Art & Design Do In Politics)

From the website of SKOR/Foundation of Art and Public Domain:

In 2005, in the book and the exhibition Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (see here), Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel asked themselves how democratic politics could function better and what the role of things, objects, issues and art might be within that.  Open24 investigates the current state of affairs in the theory and practice of the ‘Politics of Things’. What does a thing like ‘art’ do in democracy, how does art make publics, how does a thing interact with other things and people, and how does it influence them?

Jeroen Boomgaard shows how the politics of things offers purchase for actual practice, while Sher Doruff urges more abstract and philosophical reflections. Peter-Paul Verbeek demonstrates how art can examine the political role of things. Noortje Marres uses the example of the teapot to analyse the political role of technology, things and issues. Bernard Stiegler philosophizes on the technical condition under hyper-capitalism. His essay is introduced by Pieter Lemmens. Pascal Gielen proposes that the ‘Art Thing’ can encourage a democratic autonomy. Peter Peters and Ruth Benschop reconsider the public work of art Tilted Arc by Richard Serra. Fiona Candlin investigates the public significance of the Vintage Wireless Museum in London. Mariska van den Berg examines how the relation between citizens and the government can be reinterpreted by art. Plus, a visual contribution by Yvonne Dröge Wendel and her Object Research Lab, with a dialogue by Sher Doruff and Maartje Hoogsteyns.

Editors: Jorinde Seijdel, Liesbeth Melis
Guest editors: Jeroen Boomgaard, Peter Peters, Sher Doruff, Yvonne Dröge Wendel

Open 24: Politics of Things. What Art & Design do in Democracy
English edition ISBN 978-94-6208-030-0 | Paperback | 128 p | 17 x 24 cm | Illustrated

Karen Barad, Materialism, New Materialisms: Ontology, Open Humanities Press, Rick Dolphijn

New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies

Misses this one…Click here for more info and to read the book online!

“This book is the first monograph on the theme of “new materialism,” an emerging trend in 21st century thought that has already left its mark in such fields as philosophy, cultural theory, feminism, science studies, and the arts. The first part of the book contains elaborate interviews with some of the most prominent new materialist scholars of today: Rosi Braidotti, Manuel DeLanda, Karen Barad, and Quentin Meillassoux. The second part situates the new materialist tradition in contemporary thought by singling out its transversal methodology, its position on sexual differing, and by developing the ethical and political consequences of new materialism.

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Jean-Paul Sartre, Possible

Sartre on the being of the possible

In chapter IV of Part Two of his Being and Nothingness J.P. Sartre gives a, surprisingly, clear description of some themes related to the question of the being of the possible – or the being of possibilities. The notion of the possible has, of course, been programmatically criticized by Deleuze who – following Bergson’s Creative Evolution – sees in the ‘possible’ a false problem; one that (i) reduces to an ‘either..or’ dichotomy something that must be seen of admitting of degrees (‘more or less’) and/or (ii) confuses the ‘more’ with the ‘less by thinking that in reverses hierarchies (‘the real is ‘more real’ than the possible etc.; ‘the real’ = the possible + existence). Deleuze proposes an alternative dual notion – that of the actual and the virtual, where the virtual is fully real but only actualized. In effect, Sartre’s passage could be understood as a beautiful example of looking for a certain mode of existence in the wrong place; he tries to retrieve something from ‘the possible’ that, perhaps, was never part of it. Yet, somewhat (!) similar to Deleuze he holds that a ground (e.g. of the possible) does not resemble that what it grounds. For Sartre, therefore, the possible is grounded in what it is not – a ‘lack’, as he would call it. Unlike Deleuze, this lack belongs wholly to the for-itself, in so far as it is consciousness that always already ‘makes itself’.

“With the possible [..] there is the greatest difficulty in understanding its being, for it is given as prior to the being of which it is the pure possibility; and yet qua possible, at least, it necessarily must have being. [..] Since Leibniz the term “possible” is usually applied to an event which it is not engaged in an existing causal series such that the event can be surely determined and which involves no contradiction either with itself or with the system under consideration. Thus defined the possible is possible only with regard to knowledge since we are not in a position either to affirm or to deny the possible confronted. Hence we may take two attitudes in the face of the possible: We can consider, as Spinoza did, that possibilities exist only in connection with our ignorance and that they disappear when our ignorance disappears. In this case the possible is only a subjective state on the road to perfect knowledge; it has only the reality of a psychic mode; as confused or curtailed thought it has a concrete being but not as a property of the world. But it is also permissible, as Leibniz does, to make of the infinity of the possibles objects of thought for the divine understanding and so confer on them a mode of absolute reality [..] This [e.g.] means only that there exists by virtue of the thought of the divine understanding another system of co-possibles such that Adam figures there as having not eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. But is this conception so different from that of Spinoza? Actually the reality of the possible is uniquely that of the divine thought! This means that it has being as thought which has not been realized. [..] [Now] to give possibles a tendency toward being means either that the possible is already in full being and that it has the same type of being [..] or else that the possible in the bosom of the divine understanding is already an idea-force and that the maximum of idea-forces organized in a system automatically releases the divine will. But in the latter case we do not get out of the subjective. If then we define possible as non-contradictory, it can have being only as the thought of a being prior to the real world or prior to the pure consciousness of the world such as it is. In either case the possible loses its nature as possible and is reabsorbed in the subjective being of representation. But this represented-being of the possible can not account for its nature; on the contrary it destroys its nature [..] To comprehend possibility qua possibility or to be its own possible is one and the same necessity for the being such that in its being, its being is in question. But to be its own possibility – that is, to be defined by it – is precisely to be defined by that part of itself which it is not, is to be defined as an escape-from-itself towards -. (p. 96-97).

Graham Harman, Tristan Garcia

Continent + Tristan Garcia

Perhaps long overdue, but I just found out about Graham Harman’s lengthy discussion of a new ‘rising star’ in the movement, event or adventure of French philosophy; Tristan Garcia. Harman critically introduces and summarizes Garcia’s recent Forme et Objet: Un Traité des Choses – an object-oriented, Badiouian/Meillassouxian/’Frankfurter Schülean’ work consisting of several formal meditations on the kinds of objects in the world. As Harman concludes, the book is an ‘intricate piece of work by an emerging philosopher who is now a force to reckon with [..] For those who read French [it] is worth significant reading time during the months to come [..] Tristan Garcia is most likely a name that we will all be pronouncing hundreds or thousands of times in the decades to come’.

It is well worth mentioning the journal in which this article has appeared. Continent is a new (?) on-line, open source and peer-reviewed journal publishing scholarly articles, poetry, fiction, sound etc. You can login and register as either a reader, author and/or reviewer here.