> This is not to equate anti-praxis with fascism but to simply point out that a zero-claim doctrine—one that sees all practical norms as oppressive—is rife for fascist appropriation. When the proponents of anti-praxis tell us that they have no political norm or recipe, we should look at them with utter suspicion. They are either trying in the worst case to dissimulate their ulterior motives under the rubric of ideological innocence or, in the best case, they are not conscious of their own implicit practical norms because they have already dispensed with the responsibility, authority, presuppositions, and implications involved in consuming and producing norms. Saying that we must abandon all practical norms is already a normative recipe to the extent that is predicated on the impermissibility—i.e. what we ought not do—of practical norms. In this sense, anti-praxis is just a false consciousness of its so-called lack of normativity or purported innocence.
> Therefore, either anti-praxis is an implicit normative recipe or it is not. If it is, then it is not really anti-praxis, and it means that it is unaware of its own normative and/or practical assumptions. If it is not normatively practical, then it must be a theoretical position and as such it is predicated upon theoretical norms such as the knowledge of the current state of affairs, and thus beholden to epistemological norms of attaining the knowledge of the current situation. In other words, how do we know that the current state of affairs is thus-and-so? Either we have a procedure of determination that is in accordance with the public norms of doing theory, epistemology, etc, or it is the case that anti-praxis assumes we do not follow norms of theory (which are fundamentally entangled with norms of practical reasoning). In the latter case, anti-praxis is just another variation of the myth of the given and/or private access to reality. Or, maybe it is the case that anti-praxis is not even a theoretical position. In that case, it should be an aesthetic position. But if that is the case, it then has no purchase on the knowledge of the state of affairs on which it is built, nor does it have any saying as what ought to be done and what ought not, even doing nothing. We should realize that doing nothing is itself a practical norm to the extent that we can only say “do nothing” insofar as we assume we ought not do such and such things. I would say anti-praxis is more like a new age monotheistic religion that prohibitively feeds off of practical norms of other religions, all to present itself as the last religion you should embrace.
If we think about the ways of worldmaking as the ways of imagining new kinds of intelligence then, as you say, there is no way to envision a future intelligence without the dialectic — or more generally the back and forth movement — between the existing constraints of cognition and computation, and the possibility of thinking of an intelligence that is not exactly limited by our local and contingently given conditions of constitution. Freedom is therefore a consciousness of established limitations as well as the understanding that what intelligence ought to do and think once having shed such limitations, once it graduates from passivity of accepting its given conditions to crafting entirely new and more objective, but also broadened, conditions. The price of such freedom is great. It involves risk, and a gambling informed by the current variables. But I would say that this is exactly the risk we humans have taken so far against all odds of a purported fixed nature, and the the judgement of ancestors and tradition. If we entitle ourselves to such a gamble, then there is no good justification to deprive a future intelligence—whether it is a new generation, i.e. our children, or something different—of making this informed gamble. Absent this risk which is constitutive of our own self-conception, we should put an end to our so-called life. To live an intelligible reality always involves risk, we either assess the very nature of this risk and make informed decision to the best of our capacities or we die as that species which could make fabulations about other kinds of world but was ultimately unwilling to take risks in its own world. This is why, for me, what is called posthumanism for a good part is simply a different face of conservative humanism: You can dream of other intelligences—aliens, angels, superintelligences, gods, etc.—how they can evolve, what might be the consequences of their so-called reality, but still you are not willing to even imagine a new world for humans or rethink what it means to be human, and what might be the consequence of such a concrete and thoroughgoing renegotiation.
Reza Negarestani: Nelson Goodman argues that every worldmaking is a remarking of the available world. The worlds which are made are re-cognized worlds. In other words, there is no such a thing as a new world without its continuity with parts and elements of old worlds. World-versions can sometimes be made by construction of the available worlds and sometimes by their reduction to more elementary components which can be once more put together under a different integrative schema. But reduction is neither a unique nor an indiscriminate method. There is no ur-world—neurological, physical, etc.—to which such versions can be fully reduced. The talk of a total foundation, as Goodman remarks, is not a philosophical or even a scientific talk. It is a talk that should be bestowed upon and consigned to theology. The reason I am referring to Goodman’s work is because I think there is a parallel between ways of worldmaking and thinking about intelligence, specifically the future intelligence as a world of cognitions. To reduce the idea of a future intelligence to an ultimate foundation—whether under the name of biological homo sapience or sentient intelligent behaviours—is a theological way of thinking. It is not philosophical or scientific. In the same vein, the construction of worlds for the sake of multiplicity and diversification—to imagine possible worlds of intelligence disconnected from this world of ours—is also a theological thesis, albeit one that is put forward under the rubric of technology or technological deep time, the new paradigm of theological tyranny. Ways of worldmaking are, at their core, the ways of knowing. Imagining different kinds of intelligence does not engender a future intelligence, just as the posthumanist penchant to welcome all possible alternatives to the human allows no escape from human quandaries and its entrenched dogmas. Intelligence without the labour of intelligibility is a conservative humanist scam. Thinking about a future intelligence requires both the recognition of our limitations and abilities for explaining why we call something intelligent — or what involves in calling something intelligent and the hard work to, in a piecemeal manner, overcome such limitations — and to augment our theoretical and practical abilities in order to renew the link between what is deemed intelligence and the intelligible reality. Without these criteria, imagining different worlds or intelligences is nothing more an exercise in negative theology and what Kant calls enthusiasm, vagary or whimsicality.
While I am pro-science to such an extent that I am afraid my fellow philosophers might accuse me of scientism, I believe that science without philosophy is akin to what Hegel called a bad consciousness. Even though I have been formally brought up in the way of science, I am ready to claim that science without philosophy is more like an immature genius savant who is neither capable of knowing what it actually does nor is it able to communicate to other people what its latest discovery is. This is what I call the poverty of politically manhandled and malnourished science in the age of hatred for philosophy. This is just one example. On the other pole, we see people who call philosophy a distinctly white and exploitive discipline. But who are these people that call us the recruits of the tyranny of philosophy or the master discourse? They are precisely the last strands of a decrepit western civilization which does not even know what it should do when faced with minor calamities. Long before the western enlightenment became a loved and then a hated paradigm, we Africans, Middle Easterners and Asians began to develop sophisticated philosophical systems encompassing the ways of life as well as the ways of doing science and knowing. Science and the way of reason as we know them today are unimaginable without the coordinated and borderless conversation across continents, between those who are now considered the exploited and those who are identified as working on behalf of the exploiters. This is why I insist that philosophy should not be associated with this or that population, but the very force that should terminate in thought, once and for all, the very condition of exploitation. As such, the political struggle to concretely remove the conditions of exploitation is an extension of the labour of conception. Without this labour, all political actions, even the egalitarian ones, are mantraps for humanity.
So yes, in response to your question I take the paradigm of engineering as a profoundly composite—epistemological and practical—way of thinking about the world. And this also leads me to finally answer the question you posed earlier regarding what can be the concrete way of getting political ambitions done. Our first step in a concrete political project should be focused on diagnosing the precise causal mechanism responsible for the pathologies of individuation, to detect the levels at which such mechanism are entrenched, and then proceed to develop tools to intervene at those exact levels—like an engineer. If you don’t have the adequate tools to intervene at that level, then devise approximation techniques, resolve the problem at a different level. And, again like an engineer, attempt to lay out the logic(s) of existing worlds at different scales. Make new tools to construct new worlds from the detritus of the old one. The new different world is not a miracle or a religious afterlife, it is a world engineered from what is available to us. To recapitulate, we need to first understand the plural logics of this world almost like the multi-level ontologies of information science to even think what ought to be done and decide exactly what methods or tools at what level should be exercised.
Now, as you asked, how do we adapt this engineering paradigm to politics? My friend Ray (Brassier) cautioned me regarding this unconditional espousal of engineering as a political method. I fully agree with him. Politics fundamentally differs from engineering from the perspective of norms of political action. The philosophically and politically informed engineering as a political method is predicated on the hard labour of politics which, to a great degree, consists of diagnosing our current situation and then deciding how should we move forward, the work necessary for arriving the global concept. However, I do disagree with the idea that unlike the realm of politics where “what ought to be done” is a matter of antagonism and consensus-building, engineering is centred on a pre-established conventional norm (i.e., this is what the system should do, or this is the agreed upon norm by which the system should behave). Even in engineering, we know that the system can have multiple diverging trajectories of evolution. There is no pre-established norm or consensus as what the system is and how it should behave. For engineers, there is no pre-established function of a given system since such functions do change over time and in accordance with local contexts. Modelling a system is as daunting a task for engineers as it is for political theorists and activists to diagnose pathologies of society, and to find a way to eliminate them. Reality is not a given totality: sometimes you should approach it as a black box that can only be unveiled by systematically playing or intervening with it. Other times, you should do the hard work of modelling under epistemological constraints. All in all, the task is to integrate global concepts with contrasting local concepts.
(4) The final objection comes from various fatalist doctrines, particularly, the doctrine of anti-praxis with its slogan “let it go.” First of all, I think anti-praxis attempts to present itself as a zero-claim ideology, one that has no claim, no practical norm, and no recipe for collective political action. In this sense, one can get the impression that perhaps anti-praxis is more genuine than the other tenets I listed above, in so far as it does not deceive you with lofty promises of salvation, emancipation or the great outdoors. It is what it is and stands in sharp contrast to the illusions of collective political action. However, such an impression is fundamentally credulous. There is no such a thing as a zero-claim doctrine. If we look at the early doctrine of fascism—particularly its Italian offshoot—we realize that this is precisely how fascism took root. It began with the claim that we indeed have no claim, no recipe because all recipes are oppressive.