Monday, April 12, 2010

A vitalism sans the prefix dark

Though I’d argue that any great work in any field must inevitably have something strange about it, I’m tempted to give the 20th Century prize to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, which I was just leafing through again in the office the other day. Some of those examples are bizarre enough to be Kafka scenes.

Tariq Ramadan explains his attraction to Nietzsche in Monthly Review.
TR: You know, many people misunderstand this, because they think that I was coming to Nietzsche because he was very critical towards Christianity, and that, as a Muslim, I was very happy when he said, "God is dead." It's exactly the opposite, in fact. I read Nietzsche for other reasons. I read everything that was published. I had to do this. I wanted to add to the concept of suffering in Nietzsche's philosophy, which was Nietzsche as a historian of philosophy. Because he was, as Heidegger said, the last metaphysician. And he took a very strong and critical look at everything which was coming out of the Western tradition. But he was distorting Socrates, Hegel, and even Schopenhauer and other scholars.

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. […] 
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.

The conventional view of Karma is that of a rigid, ethical, mechanical and almost revengeful law of Nature which brings rewards for good deeds and punishment for evil actions. We are told that the individual who commits evil today will suffer in some future life while the good person is suffering right now because of some evil act done in a past life. This definition seems unconvincing at times because it does not explain the many anomalies seen in real life. In his works, Sri Aurobindo presented a more flexible and panoptic model of Karma. He observed that Nature is not rigid or revengeful but subtle and liberal in her application of law, working through multi-faceted principles to achieve her aims. This article is a distillation of his thoughts.

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