Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Brief Blog Reviews VI: Noir Realism

This is the sixth brief blog review. It may be about time to review a philosophy blog. (I started out in January with one that walks the line between theology and philosophy, but that's as close as I've come.) This is mainly because, surprise, I tend to refer to a lot of philosophy blogs in my posts, and my goal in this year-long series is to point to blogs I haven't otherwise referred to. This turns out to be harder than my very long blogroll would lead you to believe.

Even now, I have to bend the rules: Noir Realism has, speaking strictly, never figured in a blog post here, but I have referred, at least once and maybe more, to Dark Chemistry, the previous blog of author Steven Craig Hickman. But then Dark Chemistry went, uh, dark, and I am only just getting caught up on Hickman's new blog. Another criterion of mine has been that I want to point to blogs that have some staying power. Hickman has been more or less continuously online about as long as I have, and three years of fairly continuous work is a decent track-record for a blog. I am counting Dark Chemistry as the starting-point, here, but the thing is, sooner or later Hickman is going to write something that's going to spur me to remark. So, if I'm ever going to review Noir Realism, maybe I should hurry.

Noir Realism is extremely well-written and well-considered (and also well-designed visually). It presents, for me, some of the most challenging of thinking, and this both in how uncongenial I often find it, and how careful and well-wrought. I'll concentrate on the former aspect, but do not assume I am complimenting with the back of my hand. Hickman's vision is indeed "dark"; writers he seems drawn to tend towards dystopianism and the persistent work of disenchantment: Ligotti, Lovecraft, Ballard (especially Ballard) are the recurrent names cited from fiction. Cioran's suave despair, the triumphal anti-triumphalism of Nick Land's thanatology, Brassier's steeled starring-down of extinction, are the default colors here. The recurrent motifs are the void, nihil, lostness. Not my cup of tea, you'd think. There is more than a hint of advocacy in Hickman's descriptions of castaway alienation in a universe that never intended us. In one post he poses his question with regards to Hegel's claim that the "aim of knowledge is to divest the objective world of its strangeness and to make us more at home in it":
But what if the opposite were true that the real aim of knowledge is to invest the objective world with abject strangeness and to alter our mode within it as pure homelessness?
Hickman seems to me to pose this as an inescapable problem, but what commends him is the unremittingly intelligent writing he brings (with apparently endless energy) to reiterating this problem in all its (very scary) shades of black. (I should add, for the sake of completeness, that Hickman is also a man of the left -- so how could he not despair? -- and knows when to critique his heroes, for instance Cioran's arch anti-enlightenment biases, or more recently Land's accelerating into the arms of the reactionaries.) After all, is there any question that our era (like any) presents us with a very long list of reasons -- from the all-but-inescapable pornographic wreck which "the market" has made of our capsized culture, to the slow-motion eco-nightmare into which a gluttonous humanity has all but intentionally turned the natural world, to the acid of scientism eating through the hull of the human soul -- reasons to feel bereft and abject? In an obvious and I hope deep sense, it is true, I demur from Hickman's case (unless I misconstrue him); I'm a "believer," as we used to be mis-called; one who really thinks that the True, the Good, and the Beautiful of philosophy can be meaningfully matched with the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But I lived a long while in nihilism's dark vale, and I still move on its edge (responsibly tethered, I hope, and always having told someone where I'll be and when I plan to be back). I have learned to value, and listen to, those like Hickman who are unsatisfied with any half-way measure. If this makes him suspicious of any measure at all, who can condemn him?


  1. Thank you for an excellent review... what's interesting is that growing up in the South, in the Bible belt of Texas, Abilene, Odessa, etc. I was absorbed in the world of protestant Christianity, of faith and believers as you will... and was, myself, a believer at one time. More than anything that led me toward an almost Keatsian negative capability, or a Blakean sense of being trapped in an other's system or creating one out of the necessity of one's own being.. all these lead me to formulate an almost singular independence from systems. Even though I do ascribe to Left Ethics, I do not put on the blinders of that ideological stance as if it were some philosophical faith, instead I think we should be open to all possibilities accept those that would enslave or dominate over any human or the earth itself. My nihilism is more in the sense of the active kind of Nietzsche's latter thought, of a clearing away of the ideological blinkers we all inhabit, and of using both commentary and critique as forms of breaking through those prisons of ideology.

    Anyway... thanks for the kind words!

  2. Hi Steve, and Welcome. Glad you don't think I mis-read you too badly!
    Yes, I think one of the things that I find congenial in yr presentations is a resistance to "joining." There must be a difference between communitas, without which we cannot live, and groupthink.