Monday, April 14, 2014

This Wandering Insignificance

by Ben Woodard (University of Western Ontario)

[at] Tranzit, Str. Gazelei nr. 44
Saturday 26th of April, 17:00
Sunday 27th of April, 17:00

The image of the wandering thinker (homo viator) has become a crudely romantic portrayal of the philosopher whether Aristotle's peripatetic (walking) method or Heidegger thinking on a forest path. In either case the figure of the philosopher is a trivial explorer of the many facets of life in order to speak broadly and widely in an attempt to conjure some ghost of meaning. In these two lectures I will attempt to articulate the wandering mode of philosophy in line with the Stoic (Seneca, Alexander), ancient Chinese (Zhuangzi), pragmatic (Peirce, Sellars), and idealist traditions (Schelling, Hegel) in which wandering is the inauspicious beginning of any rationalist or naturalist construction of thought. Furthermore such wandering, I will argue, points to the tenuousness of meaning as such indicating that the navigational and exploratory nature of thinking finds itself surrounded by the failure of cognition.

Taking the pessimistic view however does not entail apathy or inactivity but suggests that the disentanglement of meaning from philosophy necessitates taking a long-view of possible human trajectories. These lectures will attempt to flesh out the difference between wanderings in which the trajectory is off-world (rationalism) and those which are inner-world (naturalism) by way of pessimistic myths constructed in the Platonic fashion as demonstrations of the worldliness of seemingly unwordly abstraction.

/1/ - The Desert of Reason

In the first lecture I explore how Platonism take as a purportedly naïve idealism is a recent historical development that overlooks the centrality of the process of demonstration. I explore how Plato's divided line functions as a basic rationalist compass in order to explore the desert of reason, of the so called space of reason as without embodied content and without necessary meaning. I then move onto critiques of recent philosophy which attempt to utilize reason for its humanist purposes before moving onto how nature encroaches on the space of reason. This will all be done through the figure of a desert wanderer attempting to survive the temptations of hollow affirmation.

/2/ - The Sea of Nature

In the second lecture I complicate the rationalist view of world with the naturalist thesis that any concept of world is always upset by the corrosive power of nature. Using the metaphor of the ocean voyage I will explore the tenuous necessity of revisionary epistemology in the context of contingent nature. Pessimism, as a cognitive augmentation, allows one to accept the degradation of one's epistemological vessel without drowning in the panic of a dissipating humanism. Pessimism attached to the navigational model of reason allows one to understand the full ramifications of Seneca's statement that there is no goal of the journey except its temporal end.


Ben Woodard is a PhD candidate at the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism at the University of Western Ontario. His work focuses on the concepts of dark vitalism and Nature in German Idealism (esp. that of FWJ von Schelling), philosophies of becoming, and Speculative Realism, as well as in Weird, Speculative, and Science Fiction. He serves as editor for Helvete: The Journal of Black Metal Studies, Thinking Nature, and Prosthesis: A Journal of Theory and Criticism. His first book Slime Dynamics: Generation, Mutation, and the Creep of Life was released in 2012 from Zer0 books His second book On an Ungrounded Earth: Towards a New Geophilosophy was published last year by Punctum Books He blogs at Speculative Heresy and Naught Thought.

Nigel Cooke, Thinker Ashore

The lecture is part of The Congress of Pessimism, a series of events organized in connection to BMR's Mediatic Affects course in the Art University of Bucharest. Events in the congress include:

22-23rd of March Dylan Trigg (UCD, School of Philosophy) [at] Salonul de Proiecte
12th of April Unsorcery meeting [at] Salonul de Proiecte
23-24th of April Nicola Masciandaro (Brooklyn College of CUNY) [at] Tranzit Bucuresti
26-27th of April Ben Woodard (Western University Canada) [at] Tranzit Bucuresti
30th of April Horror of Amphitheatre: Launch of Bezna#5: Darkness, Fear, Unknown and Bezna Dissections [at] University of Medicine

The series of lectures was possible with the support of Erste Foundation / Patterns Lectures Program, WUS Austria, Salonul de Proiecte and Tranzit Romania.