Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 14, No 3 (2018)

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The Decline of Politics in the Name of Science? Constellations and Collisions Between Nick Land and Ray Brassier

Vincent Le


In Nihil Unbound and other shorter works, Ray Brassier develops his contemporary transcendental realism by adopting the nihilistic aspects of thinkers such as Laruelle, Sellars and Badiou, while leaving behind their anthropic residuals. What is surprising is that Brassier has yet to publish any critical analysis of Nick Land despite their striking similarities and interactions at Warwick University (notwithstanding Brassier’s introduction to Land’s collected writings and a 2010 talk on Land). This paper aims to fill in this gap by showing how Brassier adheres to Land’s initial philosophy of the negative while rejecting its humanist political corollaries in favor of an epistemological turn to science. I will first show how Brassier adopts Land’s idea that we must come to terms with our future extinction as the transcendental condition for thinking a non-conceptual reality beyond our anthropic delusions of grandeur. Unlike Brassier, however, Land goes on to identify capitalism’s destructive processes as the organon for death’s transcendental critique. Consequently, Land’s recent work develops a pro-capitalist, neoreactionary politics with deeply narcissistic tendencies insofar as it rests on gratifying individuals’ basest passions and greed. Conversely, Brassier maintains Land’s initial notion of death as the transcendental critique of anthropocentrism, but instead links it to cosmology’s insight into the solar system’s eventual demise beyond anthropic political processes within our control. Although Brassier thereby believes that he is able to appropriate Land’s useful conceptual resources for de-anthropomorthizing philosophy while stripping him of his humanist political remnants, this paper will conclude by drawing on the suggestions of Mark Fisher and Reza Negarestani to proffer a Landian rejoinder to Brassier: even if capitalism is anthropomorphic, it is necessary to politically fight against it rather than abandon politics altogether in favor of science, if only to rid science of its ideological servitude under the reign of capital.

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