Mark Fisher RIP

Urbanomic’s obituary is excellent throughout. A telling snippet:

Having unexpectedly had an abstract for a joint conference paper accepted, and following a lengthy train journey, Mark and I began writing our paper the morning before the conference (of course), and a state of panic swiftly morphed into a sleep-deprived, hysterical flow state. It was hugely enjoyable, because Mark was never happier than when swept up in working on something that seemed to be building itself, soliciting further input, coalescing into some unexpected entity before his eyes, suggesting new double-meanings, puns, unexpected connections between the abstract and the empirical, Marvel Comics-style names for as-yet unnamed forces, concepts for unrecognised processes. Then the self-doubt would disappear, the anxiety would dissipate (even if the paper had to be given in a few hours!) and he would be in his element: that outside element, something beyond the strictures of the personal, that fuels enthusiasm and enthralled fascination with what is being ‘channelled’.

Mark Fisher’s life was an extreme manic-depressive roller-coaster, which he constantly sought to cosmically (and socio-politically) rationalize. The upswings were incandescent with a creative energy beyond anything I have ever witnessed (or engaged with). The downswings were hell. Finally, he reached one he was unable to wait-out.

The Ccru was only one stage in his life, though it was of course the one I knew best. His contribution was so complete that it eludes any attempt at isolation. That Ccru happened at all was only due to his absorption into the entity. When he dropped out — during an earlier season in the abyss, around the turn of the Millennium — it was over.

ADDED: An obituary from Simon Reynolds.

Kant around the back

Schmidhuber exemplifies the path, while talking about robots:

One important thing about consciousness is that the agent, as it is interacting with the world, will notice that there is one thing that is always present as it is interacting with the world — which is the agent itself.

(Some room for quibbling, but it doesn’t get serious. This is where transcendental subjectivity comes from.)

Anti-Mimesis

More on Thiel’s Girardian machinations at the Business Insider:

On a deeper level, perhaps Trump fit into Thiel’s grand historical plans. Here was a man who would disrupt the runaway mimesis caused by globalization, which encouraged people around the world to compare their lives to everyone else’s.

The thesis is certainly neat.

Previous (extended) ruminations on the topic linked here.

Quotable (#213)

Girard in contemporary politics (insightfully explored):

In one of his seminars, Thiel made the political stakes of his concern with scapegoating more explicit, making reference to Occupy Wall Street: “The 99% vs. the 1% is the modern articulation of this classic scapegoating mechanism. It is all minus one versus the one.” The central task of controlling what Girard calls the “victimage mechanism,” for “founders” like him, is to deflect collective violence from themselves. Gawker, on the other hand, seemed to specialize in identifying targets for that violence, or at least for collective online vituperation – and those targets often belonged to the capitalist “founder” class, although many debated whether Gawker at times abandoned its proclaimed commitment to “punching up.” Crushing Gawker was not simply an attack on a particular organ of scapegoating that had offended Thiel, but an attempt to disarm a certain politicization of scapegoating in a digital world given over to it.

(The entire piece is excellent.)

Quotable (#191)

Nagel on (Gottlieb on) Hobbes, getting the critical point:

What was distinctive about Hobbes’s theory, and what led to his being attacked as a moral nihilist, was his refusal to appeal to any concern for the good of others or the collective good as a basis for moral motivation. He demonstrated that the familiar rules of morality, which he called the laws of nature, are principles of conduct such that if everyone follows them, everyone will be better off. But the fact that everyone will be better off if everyone follows them gives no individual a reason to follow them himself. He can have a reason to follow them only if that will make him individually better off. And there is no natural guarantee that individual self-interest and the collective interest will coincide in this way. […] Hobbes concluded that although we all have a reason to want to live in a community governed by the moral rules, we cannot achieve this unless we bring it about that it is in each person’s individual interest to abide by those rules. And the method of doing that is to agree with one another to support a powerful sovereign with a monopoly on the use of force, who will use it to punish violators. Only then can each individual be confident that if he obeys the rules, he will not be laying himself open to assault and dispossession by others. Without the trust engendered by the knowledge that violators will be punished, civilization is impossible and individual self-interest — the same rational motive that supports morality — leads to perpetual conflict and constant insecurity. This is the famous Hobbesian state of nature, and Hobbes was most notorious for saying that in this condition, we are almost never obligated to obey the moral rules, because it is not safe to do so.

The identification of a collective optimum does no realistic theoretical work. Irrespective of the status of his concrete conclusion, Hobbes’ methodical principle is impeccable.