The Doll Hospital: Between Laruelle and Badiou, Vitalism and Anti-Vitalism

I’ve been thinking through the relationship between a maximally Unbounded Posthumanism that relinquishes any constraints on what subjects, worlds or agents are or ought to be and artistic production by considering its analogs in contemporary French thought: particularly the work of Badiou and Laruelle (See also Roden 2018). One way in which Unbound Posthumanism can be understood, I suspect, is as a way of mapping an unbounded space of possibility (analogous to Badiou’s inconsistent multiple) but in a way that is constructive and deconstructive rather than ontological. In this it is closer in methodology to François Laruelle’s Non-Philosophy, since it operates on the raw material of human self-conceptions rather than setting in place a revisionary ontology or metaphysics.

Just as phenomenology suspends our realist assumptions about the independent existence of a real world, non-philosophy suspends the claims of philosophy to comprehend reality by analysing the ‘the real’ into variants of transcendental form or empirical content (Gangle 2014, 46). Philosophy can thus claim no privileged status as a means of accessing the world in Non-philosophy.

SOUTERRAIN BAROQUE

Such a suspension is also direct consequence of Unbounded Posthumanism, if taken to the limit, since it forces us to relinquish constraints (phenomenological, formal or linguistic) on the space of posthuman agents, minds or worlds. It cannot begin with an idea of thought or meaning that affords a starting point from which to constrain this ‘unbounded’, which remains open while no longer posed as a space or totality.

Here, we might draw further analogy from Badiou’s set-theoretical conception of Being as an inconsistent multiplicity or void that is ‘not-one, nor composable of ones’ (Badiou 2006, 56). However, since there is no ontological conception of this non-totality along Badiouan lines, we must navigate it differently.

It is important to note a certain indeterminacy already applied to the standard formulation of speculative posthumanism in Posthuman Life. There, the only means we could acquire empirical knowledge of posthumans was engineering, not philosophy: making posthumans, becoming posthuman (Roden 2014, 8). This constructivist formula can be reiterated in a maximally unbound posthumanism; but no longer in an ontological mode.

The open void of the posthuman is no more theorized than in Badiou’s account. It can only be mapped through an operation of disconnection. Thus ‘disconnection’ is, here, an operator – ‘a differential function without an ontological basis’ (Derrida 1984, 16) – whose nature is iteratively defined through strategies of alteration. By the same token these strategies are counter-final. They have no telos – for example, cultivating human perfection – since this would be to pre-empt the process of construction.

There can be no posthuman aesthetics any more than there can be a posthuman ethics – because unbinding relinquishes any binding account of a subject from which the aesthetic could grasped as such, However, this process is structurally aesthetic insofar as its nature is formed iteratively, through making and unmaking. It is also embodied without giving primacy to any phenomenological lived body or organism, for bodies remain an exemplary medium for understanding (iteratively producing) disconnection into the posthuman void.

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Posthuman bodies are consequently deformations of the human: bio-morphisms. These are not bodies of flesh – a spiritual totality that situates thought in its world. Posthumanism at the limit, has no thought; no flesh (Sachs 2014, 9). In this sense, unbounded posthumanism provides a speculative deployment of life without any conception of what it ought to become or any organicist/vitalist distinction between life and matter or mechanism. It is, rather, a conceptual abattoir or laboratory of changes, as liable to produce a multiplicity of abortions and by-blows as anything transcendent or terrifying.

References

Badiou, A. 2006. Being and Event. Oliver Feltham (tr). London: Continuum.

Derrida, Jacques. 1984. ‘My Chances/Mes Chances: A Rendez-vous with Some Epicurean Stereophonies’, I.E. Harvey and Avital Ronell (trans.), in J.H. Smith and W. Kerrigan (eds.) Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis and Literature (Baltimore MD).

Gangle, R., 2014. ‘The Theoretical Pragmatics of Non-Philosophy: explicating Laruelle’s suspension of the principle of sufficient philosophy with Brandom’s meaning-use diagrams’. Angelaki, 19(2), pp.45-57.

Roden, David. 2014. Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human. London: Routledge.

Roden, D., 2018. ‘Disconnection at the limit: posthumanism, deconstruction and non-philosophy’, Symposia Melitensia, 14, pp.19-34.

Sachs, C.B., 2014. ‘Discursive and Somatic Intentionality: Merleau-Ponty Contra McDowell or Sellars’. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 22(2), pp.199-227.

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