I take it that you, upon finding yourself in this small corner of cyberspace, feel comfortable assuring yourself that you decided to do so. Just as I, at this very moment, feel perfectly content in my capacity to extend the creative powers of my mind into a digital text. And yet to what extent is it legitimate to locate in oneself a causal nexus? Oneself – is there even such a thing?
If we begin from the premise that neuroscientific findings, while not exhaustively accounting for cognitive phenomena, nor even necessarily foreshadowing the completion of its own research, nonetheless possess exclusive purchase on viable claims about ourselves qua thinking – or rather, claims about thinking approximately located by this or that body, this or that writhing mass of imbricated populations feeding into and off of a finally unsustainable and terminal economic trajectory – then we must resist all temptation to fall back on commonsense circumlocutions of thought(-)by(-)itself. That thought might be doing great harm to itself, or at the very least disarming itself without caution – this is more than a danger, it is a banality.
It is time to cease demanding of science pitiful conformity to the coordinates sanctioned by everyday life, and instead allow it to reconstruct the world without regard for the opinions of its inhabitants. Yet does this entail we leave the common man to tie himself in all manner of superstitious bondage, and restrict disciplined resignation to a world utterly desolate and absent of purpose (i.e. an end to be achieved, say, explanation of an originary intution, such as ‘consciousness’, ‘life’, or the ‘universe’) from the corrosive tendencies it would inevitably exert upon him? Do we continue to cover science in all manner of colorful garment, so to distract the untrained eye from the hideous figure lurking underneath?
There is nothing scientific in the separation of science from everyday life, nor in the assimilation of the former in the latter under the sign of ‘ethical predicaments’. Witness the ‘faithful’ evade the claims of science, issuing clichéd warnings that ‘we are not so different, you and I…’: puerile willed ignorance exemplified. Science does not raise ethical questions; no, it levels them.
If this latter point is true, it is because there is nothing admissible in scientific findings approximate to the fundamental architecture of ethics, or indeed, normative security in general. Science is never wont to convince you that you should agree that this is the case; the evidence is bare and exposed for all to consider. The question is not which theory we should accept and which we should reject, but which theory is capable of consistently admitting evidence without selective prejudices. Yet this no more reduces hard ethical problems to trivial differends erased by university discourse – science is no more technocratic than ethical. Scientific theories do not depend on experts, but only on a ruthless and restless submission of thought to the test of the Real (beyond the pragmatic compromise of reality testing that seeks only to prolong the pleasure principle indefinitely).
It may at last be possible that the same experimental criteria governing scientific theories, in which the determination of theory by the Real is transcendentally effectuated by a practice that actively submits thought to its incompletion by the Real, rather than struggling in vain to evade and encompass the Real, may come to displace the average, everyday structure of deception securing the (un)holy alliance between thought and obedience. Science’s submission to the Real, far from amounting to a variant of subordination, rather frees thought as avatar of the Real, voice and vision of the Real, rather than its master. For the Real is no one’s master, and mastery only enters with the assertion that someone has usurped an already-empty throne.
Yet don’t we tempt fate in uncritically endorsing the unsurpassability of so-called instrumental reason, in which the rationalization of means is elevated to the only end? Have we so foolishly forgotten the distress calls issued from Frankfurt not a century ago? This could only be so if, as the latter warned, we elevated rationalization to the only end. And while we have heard that the only tactic capable of catching this elevation off guard is the assertion of an end emptied of all content to which rationalization must submit, in the form of an irredeemable hope or longing for redemption, I say it is otherwise. Rather than insisting on keeping purpose, meaning, and all of these servants of man – the great deceiver (of himself!) – on life support, even in a thoroughly neutered and vegetative form, I say we let them die a long warranted death. Scientific thought can no longer afford to feed its enemies, and should insist they be left to fend for themselves.
If rationalization as end, instrumental reason, was the horizon of the Frankfurtian comprehension of their enemy, it fell dreadfully short of its true, monstrous shape - the irrational expansion of rationalization which suspends all ends, even rationalization itself, so long as everything might become a means to the expansion of the means to the expansion of the means… This desparate and cunning reach of reasonless, malignant growth is at once the ultimate expression of the pathetic passion to encompass and control everything that is, and the potential undoing of the original bearer of this passion. We have a name for it, and we call it capital - that hideous passion released from the last trappings of its fragile, organic larvae.
Capital enforces a rigorously anorganic, even anti-organic organicism, a fascism that has contempt not only for inferior races, but even for life itself as an inferior means of the expansion of control. Capital is the face of control finally freed from the illusion that it depends upon some controlling homonculous.
So what, then, is the task of philosophy, be it a task without end, reason, or purpose? Philosophy can no more give up on the Real, leaving it to science, than it can override or preside over scientific work. Philosophy can be nothing but the practical disposition whose aim is to suspend all seizure of science in practice, or reduction of science to the servant of the higher ends of man. Any practical constellation in which science is submitted to extrinsic control, whether it be a substantial control by human aims or a substanceless control for the sake of control by Capital, must be violently dissolved. This might be an adequate task for philosophy.
We can do better, however. Philosophy cannot be confined to the internal negation of practice by itself, or the end inverted into endlessness as end. It cannot simply serve as the border guard and avant-garde of science’s hestitant cultural revolution. It cannot simply be a self-sundering consciousness of (itself as) naturalized consciousness.
Philosophy can do more. It can disassemble the theoretical rack upon which man has strung himself, but it can do more, it can use the remains to build new, even more monstrous contraptions to extend his reach, or to otherwise warp him and his world into previously unseen shapes and figures. This is the concept: the remains of a thought remade, fashioned anew into a new technological manipulation of nature by itself. Or: the concept is built from dismantled conventions, prejudices, opinions, and mythic stitchings-together of the fragile, fragmentary fabric that is this world. It uses the artifices formerly employed in filling out the empty spaces in the world, spaces now increasingly tunnels bored out by science, no longer blanks but ever receding voids into which we throw ourselves without fear – it uses them against themselves, revealing the artifice propping up ‘nature’ only dodged the point that nature was already artifice all along. When philosophy builds new contraptions from the ruins cast off by science, it does so not to capture the Real or science, but to live according to the Real, to machine the Real itself in disassembling and remaking it, reveling in the radical instability that we are.