Over at Attempts at Living, arranjames has a nice post responding to my manifesto calling for a post-nihilistic praxis. I agree wholeheartedly. The points I laid out last night were intended to outline the constraints or framework within which contemporary social, political, and disciplinary questions are to be posed if they’re to be legitimate. Some have expressed confusion over my use of the term “axiom” in that post. In modern mathematics, an axiom is not a “self-evident truth” (nothing is self-evidently true these day) but a constraint on how a particular branch of mathematics is to unfold. In this sense, an axiom is a sort of rule of the game. It says “given this constraint, how must questions in this branch of mathematics be posed and what can be deduced?” The axioms I set forth last night are what I take to be the only legitimate conclusions that can be drawn from the state of knowledge today in the physical sciences, biology, neurology, psychology, etc. It’s simply no longer possible to honestly believe in a world characterized by purposiveness, body/mind divisions, design, the supernatural, and all the rest. As Nietzsche saw long ago, we’ve completely lost this world. Here are a few more axioms that I forgot in the last post.
21. Humans are a particular type of animal among other animals and are not the pinnacle of being or existence.
22. All human cognitive powers are biologically rooted or grounded.
23. These cognitive powers evolved for the sake of getting around in a hostile world pervaded with other predators and for reproduction. It does appear, however, that our nervous systems are able to deploy themselves in ways that go beyond these original evolutionary aims.
24. Our cognitive systems did not evolve for the sake of knowing the world or representing it as it is; which is why we must perpetually engage in critique in our knowledge-producing practices to protect against the insufficiencies of our cognitive structures.
25. Consciousness has no special insight into the workings of the body from which it arises, nor any special insight into the causes of its cognitive and affective states. As a consequence, evidence drawn from introspection has to be treated with caution.
26. Given that all minds have a neurological substrate, we can no longer speak in generic or general terms about human minds as neurological structures are diverse in our species. This is also attested to by the developmental plasticity of the brain.
27. No philosophy can ignore or bracket the findings of the sciences and be legitimate. Some basic scientific literacy is necessary for good philosophical work. Similarly, basic literacy in the findings of ethnography, linguistics, sociology, and psychology are also necessary for good philosophical work.
28. Philosophy is not a foundation for any other discipline, nor does any other discipline require philosophy to grant them legitimacy. Each discipline develops its own epistemic criteria and protocols as a function of its investigation. While philosophy can, of course, engage in critique of these protocols and render a service in doing so, other disciplines are in no need of the epistemological work of philosophy. Indeed, philosophical epistemologies are often a hindrance to research in other disciplines as the philosopher is seldom aware of the specific questions and methodologies pursued and used in these disciplines and therefore arrives at them with a highly distorted understanding of what knowledge is in these disciplines.
29. Everything that exists is the result of a genesis or development.
30. Religions are not beliefs but are political institutions that exert power in the world in various ways and that organize people in various ways. As a consequence, discussions of religion at the level of belief and whether or not those beliefs are true often miss the fact that religions are sociological entities.
31. Theology seldom contributes anything to our understanding of religion and often muddies the water by presenting a rationalized version of popular belief and religion. The claims of theologians are seldom reflective of what the population believes. As a consequence, we have more to learn about religion from the ethnographer and the sociologist of religion than we do from the theologian who is generally what Deleuze called a State Thinker, even in his most progressive moment.
32. There is no religion that does not involve the supernatural. Those theologians that attempt to persuade us that religion is really about meanings and symbols do not understand what they’re talking about.
33. Culture is not a domain outside of nature, but is a formation within nature. Cultures are one more ecology among others.
34. Nature is not harmonious nor does it strive for harmony, though harmony does occasionally happen for a brief period of time.
36. The world is riddled with antagonisms and always will be.
37. In ecologies and societies, there is no one cause for any particular event, but rather all events are “overdetermined” or the result of multiple causes.
38. Everything is in a constant state of disintegration. For this reason, work, energy, and operations are required for any ordered existence to continue enduring in time.
39. Existence is indifferent to us, our sufferings, how we live our lives, and whether we continue to exist. We aren’t, however, indifferent to each other.
40. If aliens ever visit our planet they won’t be nice and they’ll be up to no good. Star Trek is not a documentary.
41. Molecular biology has discredited vitalism and all its variants.