Reading Assignment: “X-Risk” by Thomas Mohynihan, Chapter 0.
This will be a short introductory section to field questions about the book and the purpose of the group.
The group will take place on the Blinding Cyclops discord server in the channel “The Final Act > Final Meeting Room”: https://discord.gg/g8utJ4Qu
Discord invite links expire every 24 hours, so I’ll try to keep it fresh, but if it doesn’t seem to be working, message me and I’ll get you one. Thanks!
The Enlightenment has been a disaster for human intuition. It seems like everywhere we point the tools of modern science they derange our fundamental beliefs about space, time, objects, ourselves, and our species. As the world expanded by use of such perceptual aids grows larger and weirder, even notions of a universe antagonistic to sapient flourishing fail to do justice to its resounding ambivalence. Of all the blows struck to our humanist folk-metaphysics by modernity, none seems graver than the possibility of human extinction, a thought unthinkable up until about 200 years ago, according to Thomas Mohynihan, author of “X-Risk”. While end-times narratives are commonplace in religious traditions the world over, Mohynihan makes a critical distinction between the mythic idea of apocalypse, and the modern secular idea of extinction, claiming that, “[w]here apocalypse secures the sense of an ending, extinction anticipates the ending of sense.” Apocalypse is never touted as the permanent and universal end of subjective experience, but is, on the contrary, often represented as a necessary part of the cycle by which life, whose apparent goodness afforded it cosmic necessity for most pre-Kantian thinkers, rejuvenates itself. In a world inevitably replete with living things, humans are absolved of the grave responsibility imparted by the possibility of our extinction. It is this responsibility from which we can no longer hide.
What does it mean to be a species capable of contemplating its own non-existence, and why did it take us so long to do it? Have we adequately addressed the philosophical problems revealed or exacerbated by x-risk, namely nihilism? What new ideas become possible to think in the wake of this one? Characters as diverse as effective altruists, xenofeminist post-humanists, and death-cult terrorists scramble to scab over our collective psychic wounding, but it is much too soon to say which, if any, will succeed. It may be that the system of thought to pass us through The Great Filter cannot or does not yet exist, or that its parts lay unassembled across history’s work bench, but in any case, the cataloging of our species’ efforts and their consequences seems like a vital task.
We will begin with Mohynihan’s “X-Risk” for a historical grounding in the idea of human extinction. After that we’ll likely read Mohaghegh’s “Omnicide”, which details the relationship between our panoply of modern manias and the desire for collective annihilation through the lens of contemporary middle eastern poetry, as well as Brassier’s “Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction”, a text that addresses head-on the philosophical ramifications of post-Enlightenment scientific disenchantment.
“X-Risk” – Thomas Mohynihan (January 18 – March 1)
“Omnicide” – Jason Mohaghegh (March 8 – April 19)
“Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction” – Ray Brassier (April 26 – June 7)
“After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency” – Quentin Meillassoux
“Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials” – Reza Negarestani
“The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror” – Thomas Ligotti
“Collapse: Volumes I-VIII” – essay collections edited by Robin Mackay
“Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy” – Graham Harman