Mad Speculation and Absolute Inhumanism: Lovecraft, Ligotti, and the Weirding of Philosophy by Ben Woodard
continent. 1.1 (2011): 3-13.
/0/ – Introduction
I want to propose, as a trajectory into the philosophically weird, an absurd theoretical claim and pursue it, or perhaps more accurately, construct it as I point to it, collecting the ground work behind me like the Perpetual Train from China Mieville’s Iron Council which puts down track as it moves reclaiming it along the way. The strange trajectory is the following: Kant’s critical philosophy and much of continental philosophy which has followed, has been a defense against horror and madness. Kant’s prohibition on speculative metaphysics such as dogmatic metaphysics and transcendental realism, on thinking beyond the imposition of transcendental and moral constraints, has been challenged by numerous figures proceeding him. One of the more interesting critiques of Kant comes from the mad black Deleuzianism of Nick Land stating, “Kant’s critical philosophy is the most elaborate fit of panic in the history of the Earth.” And while Alain Badiou would certainly be opposed to the libidinal investments of Land’s Deleuzo-Guattarian thought, he is likewise critical of Kant’s normative thought-bureaucracies:
Kant is the one author for whom I cannot feel any kinship. Everything in him exasperates me, above all his legalism—always asking Quid Juris? Or ‘Haven’t you crossed the limit?’—combined, as in today’s United States, with a religiosity that is all the more dismal in that it is both omnipresent and vague. The critical machinery he set up has enduringly poisoned philosophy, while giving great succour to the academy, which loves nothing more than to rap the knuckles of the overambitious [….] That is how I understand the truth of Monique David-Menard’s reflections on the properly psychotic origins of Kantianism (La Folie dans la raison pure). I am persuaded that the whole of the critical enterprise is set up to to shield against the tempting symptom represented by the seer Swedenborg, or against ‘diseases of the head’, as Kant puts it (535-536).
An entire nexus of the limits of reason and philosophy are set up here, namely that the critical philosophy not only defends thought from madness, philosophy from madness, and philosophy from itself, but that philosophy following the advent of the critical enterprise philosophy becomes auto-vampiric; feeding on itself to support the academy. Following Francois Laruelle’s non-philosophical indictment of philosophy, we could go one step further and say that philosophy operates on the material of what is philosophizable and not the material of the external world.
Beyond this, the Kantian scheme of nestling human thinking between our limited empirical powers and transcendental guarantees of categorical coherence, forms of thinking which stretch beyond either appear illegitimate, thereby liquefying both pre-critical metaphysics and the ravings of the mad in the same critical acid. In rejecting the Kantian apparatus we are left with two entities—an unsure relation of thought to reality where thought is susceptible to internal and external breakdown and a reality with an uncertain sense of stability. These two strands will be pursued, against the sane-seal of post-Kantian philosophy by engaging the work of weird fiction authors H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti. The absolute inhumanism of the formers universe will be used to describe a Shoggothic Materialism while the dream worlds of the latter will articulate the mad speculation of a Ventriloquil Idealism. But first we must address the relation of philosophy to madness as well as philosophy to weird fiction.