INTERMITTENT MELANCHOLIA: on a recurrent feeling of conceptual penury

This post is not so much in response to as in dialogue with a post on the Xenogothic blog reflecting on the current state of Theory and of its online discussions and deliberations.

The original article is a very interesting thought-and-mood piece written by Xenogothic blogger and book author Matt Colquhoun, analysing a recurrent feeling of stagnation of, and disappointment in, contemporary philosophy and its online passion-bearers.

I share Xenogothic‘s analysis of the progressive decline of Speculative Realist oriented philosophical blogging and also the feeling of disappointment in its undead perpetually self-cloned commercial « successes » and in the surrounding noetic vacuum.

However, I cannot fully agree with my own feeling of decline, stagnation, and the void, as I consider THE IMMANENCE OF TRUTHS (2018), Badiou’s third volume in his BEING AND EVENT trilogy, his best. See my summary and review here.

In the domain of « Non-Philosophy » and of « Non-Standard Philosophy » François Laruelle’s TETRALOGOS (2019) is also among his best. Summary and review here.

Bernard Stiegler’s research programme is still going strong, and he and his team have just published: « BIFURCATE: There Is No Alternative ».

It is important to note that these three recent books are still untranslated, so the feeling of stagnation in Anglophonia is perhaps more commercially orchestrated than realistic. The market is depressed and we are responding to that.

Slavoj Zizek is continuing to produce very interesting work in English. This year has seen the publication of SEX AND THE FAILED ABSOLUTE (my review begins here) and HEGEL IN A WIRED BRAIN. In addition, the constellation of thinkers working with and around Zizek’s ideas are quite active.

Bruno Latour is at last coming into his own with the spin-offs from his AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE research programme, attesting to the fecundity (despite its flaws) of the initial project statement. My review here.

So I wonder if this intermittent noetic  and conceptual melancholy is due less to an actual philosophical slump than to a manufactured scarcity (slowness of publication, phase-lag in translation, foregrounding of superficial dead-end thinkers to the detriment of deeper and more open-ended heuristics.

Update: this post appeared initially as a series of tweets responding to and ruminating on Xenogothic’s original post, and Matt Colquhoun has chosen to continue the dialogue with a new post:

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7 commentaires pour INTERMITTENT MELANCHOLIA: on a recurrent feeling of conceptual penury

  1. Ping : A Realism that is Still Speculative: A Comment from Terence Blake – xenogothic

  2. dmf dit :

    too often « speculative » (especially in the blogosphere) has become a cover for an unwillingness/inability to give accounts in which one can point to distinct things/features in the world to see if there is in fact anything actual being discussed or these are just mere flights/figures/moods of fancy, if we can’t test these things off the page then they have little to no use apart from aesthetic appreciation which is fine as such but not really open to much then except mutual appreciation or rejection.

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      • Hi dmf thanks for the link to Stengers.
        Great stuff. I wonder about the relation between rigour, critical thought and speculation, in the light of this by Stengers &Co:

        “ We, however, believe that critical thinking … confers upon the meaning of the possible the quasi-messianic grandeur of an expectation requiring fidelity, but more particularly rooting out imposture, condemning that which is not a legitimate pointer to what lies ahead….

        I often cannot decide if Laruelle, for example, is indulging in a “quasi-messianic grandeur of an expectation requiring fidelity” or is simply making forms of speculative phylo-fiction. His language makes me feel as if he might be indulging in a sense of the importance of his own “speculations”. But can’t you do both in « reality », that is in a situation of being not a unified psychological/social/biological entity as such, but rather a multiplicity of modes in which one is, literally, all over the place. Not very “French” to be sure! Life is messy.


      • dmf dit :

        sure, well to follow Stengers since you liked that pragmatist slant there is that the question/matter isn’t one of authorial intentions but of usefulness or not and usefulness in relation to whatever task is at hand for the one(s) using « it », I don’t buy that we are all over the place as critters, rather our various tools (means of expression/grasping, if you will) aren’t One and to the degree that philo sees itself as the Grand-Unifier/Master-Code/Algorithm that somehow sublates the others that’s a theo-logical worldview better left behind. hope that’s helpful, cheers

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  3. …As a matter of fact, and in a general way, the paths that run through conceptual experiences, that is, through ‘thoughts’ or ‘ideas’ that ‘know’ the things in which they terminate, are highly advantageous paths to follow. Not only do they yield inconceivably rapid transitions; but, owing to the ‘universal’ character[5] which they frequently possess, and to their capacity for association with one another in great systems, they outstrip the tardy consecutions of the things themselves, and sweep us on towards our ultimate termini in a far more labor-saving way than the following of trains of sensible perception ever could. Wonderful are the new cuts and the short-circuits which the thought-paths make. Most thought-paths, it is true, are substitutes for nothing actual; they end outside the real world altogether, in wayward fancies, utopias, fictions or mistakes. But where they do re-enter reality and terminate therein, we substitute them always; and with these substitutes we pass the greater number of our hours…. William James


    • terenceblake dit :

      I have great interest in, and great patience for, thought-paths, and I agree that they need to be tested in various ways, although for me « re-entry » is only one form of test among others. Feyerabend points out that there can be no abstract definitive time-limit put on such patient waiting for re-entry, and that concrete life will lead us to choose how long to exercise such patience in waiting. This ties in with Stengers’ quasi-Badiousian idea of « fidelity to an expectation ». In the next post I consider Badiou’s attempt to dissociate the two (fidelity and expectation) at least partially, in that fidelity must also include within its purview presently existing points of entry containing the potential for future re-entry, and so themselves worthy of fidelity.
      Note: Laruelle has declared « Laruelle does not exist », and like you I wish he would be more faithful to that insight in practice.

      Aimé par 2 personnes

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