Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Spirit in the Crypt Negarestani vs Land

Academic journal article Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy

Spirit in the Crypt Negarestani vs Land

Article excerpt

Until recently, Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani was best known for his 2008 theory-fiction Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials. (1) That book was written under the influence of Nick Land's virulently nihilistic and antihumanist philosophy which seeks to critique dogmatic metaphysics-- understood more broadly as anthropomorphism--by confronting us with the brute reality of our coming extinction beyond which our concepts of reason cannot reach. In particular, Land envisioned technocapitalism as the primary mechanism for deterritorializing reason as its incessant revolutionization of the productive forces would ultimately culminate in an artificial posthuman superintelligence which completely exceeds the bounds of our comprehension:

It is utterly superstitious to imagine that the human dominion of terrestrial culture is still marked out in centuries, let alone in some metaphysical perpetuity. The high road to thinking no longer passes through a deepening of human cognition, but rather through a becoming inhuman of cognition, a migration of cognition out into the emerging planetary technosentience reservoir, into 'dehumanized landscapes'. (2)

For Land as for the young Negarestani, technocapitalism's creation of strong AI will mark nothing less than the ultimate critique of our transcendental illusions to be able to access the real insofar as it erects a wall across the future over which we cannot see, let alone survive.

Since the publication of Cyclonopedia, however, Negarestani has left behind Landian nihilism to develop a neorationalist philosophy of mind whose primary influences are Sellars, Brandom, and Hegel. The result of the last decade of Negarestani's intellectual development is the 2018 Intelligence and Spirit. At 579 clearly written yet dense pages, it is difficult even for a review article to encapsulate the book in its entirety. My approach is to instead give a sense of its overall project by focusing on how Negarestani outlines and develops his neorationalist philosophy through a critique of Land's antihumanism. This tactic might at first seem incongruous given that Intelligence and Spirit never actually mentions Land by name. Since Negarestani repeatedly critiques antihumanists, nihilists, irrationalists and proponents of both capitalism and posthuman superintelligence, all of which are identifiably Landian positions to which Negarestani once held, it is nonetheless clear that Land is the book's chief target, its He Who Must Not Be Named. Even Negarestani's Hegelian critiques of Kant can actually be read as implicit objections to and refutations of Land insofar as his key contention is that antihumanism paradoxically recapitulates the same dogmas as Kant's conservative humanism. So what this article's first half shows is that Negarestani aims to move continental philosophy from its Kanto-Landian phase to a renewed Hegelian phase inflected through Sellars and Brandom's pragmatist interpretations of Hegel.

Addressing Negarestani's objections to Land still leaves open the question as to whether they are actually valid and convincing arguments. Never one to remain silent whilst others seek to resurrect Hegel from the dead, since December 2018, Land has been releasing a draft on his blog Urban Futures 2.1 of his new monograph Crypto-Current: Bitcoin and Philosophy. Although it focuses on the phenomenon of bitcoin as the title suggests, the book also proffers Land's most up to date articulation of his main antihumanist tenets with which Negarestani takes issue. Having organized Intelligence and Spirit around Negarestani's objections to Land, this article's second half turns to CryptoCurrent to see how Land is able to provide convincing responses to each of Negarestani's objections, showing some to be based on strawman characterizations, others to stem from misunderstandings of Land's position, and still others to lack traction at all. By putting Negarestani and Land's new books in combat, we will ultimately see that the grounds for Negarestani's efforts to move continental philosophy beyond its Kanto-Landian phase is unsuccessful in that antihumanism is able to respond to each of his objections in kind. …

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