Sunday, 11 April 2010
Dark Vitalism and Worlds Without End
I am rather attracted to Ben Woodard’s ongoing theorization of a weird nature, complete with slime mechanics, dark vitalism and other matter(s) over at Naught Thought. At many points his work converges with the metaphysical framework that I spent my PhD elucidating, albeit with the sacred/goddess taken out. I find it particularly intriguing in its usage and synthesis of Schelling and others, plus its tropes of a nature that is unheimlich, wild and ontologically strange. I tend to diverge, though, on the topic and usage of nihilism. This is for reasons that are broadly cosmological in character. I read Ben’s nihilism, perhaps mistakenly, as reliant on a cosmological extinction or omega point (e.g. big crunch, heat death, whatever), and it is this with which I disagree. My own preferred cosmological model is that of the maternal space-time of the physicist Andrei Linde. His work theorises an ongoing/eternal process of cosmic inflation, wherein universes emerge, bubble-like, from the space-time of other universes/bubbles (see here and here). This is a framework within which all talk of origins and teleology becomes remarkably problematic. Now I fully accept that one may still speak meaningfully of the death of our own universe in some deep time frame (not upsetting, in this sense, Brassier’s thesis that is grounded in the certainty of “our” own extinction). However, it seems quite reasonable to conceive of a vitalism, similar to the one that Ben is working with, that stretches beyond the horizons of our own universe’s space-time. I won’t dabble with past and future tenses here, suffice it to say that, in Linde’s cosmological framework, it seems plausible to contend that it is simply universes all the way down and also all the way up. Ben’s version of vitalism just doesn’t seem to warrant the description of dark in this cosmological framework, except in the sense of some dark, Kali-like mother who is both fecund but also remarkably destructive. Fair to say that I may have misunderstood the nature of Ben’s nihilism, but it seems more plausible to me to posit a cosmic natality – as a metaphysical principle – wherein vitalism is the crystallising, emananting and processual spread manifesting itself through/as infinite space-time bubbles/universes. This would be a vitalism that propagates worlds without-end and certainly does not seem to warrant the prefix dark. Now, of course, whether one can specify metaphysically what this vitalism means in more detail is where Ben’s work gets interesting. I just don’t happen to get the nihilistic edge of his work in progress.