By Michael Cifone
THE NEW YORK SPACETIMES, by Michael Cifone, is a series about philosophy, society, politics, and everything else, starting from New York City and radiating outwards, borderlessly and unboundedly.
He has worked on the philosophy and metaphysics of natural science, with a special focus on relativity and quantum theories, and on the philosophy of science more generally, especially including “Continental” treatments of science and the scientific worldview.
You can find out more about his work HERE.
As for Michael himself: “Until I’m dead, there isn’t much to say. Aside from my husband, my ideas, my friends, and my family, I have nothing and am nothing. But I’m sure you can do better.”
Thinking in End Times: Introduction
There is an idea that had fallen out of favor, the idea of an “Axial Age,” which I wish to reconsider as a way of approaching not philosophy, nor of anything to which we might associate it (ethics, politics, theory, analysis), but to what has happened to all of these things, and what is happening to us in these end times.
We are being forced to rethink, reexamine, and reconsider everything as The Four Horsemen of an impending Apocalypse appear on the horizon.
The pandemic of 2019–2020 forces the matter. We are now thinking about how to escape the boredom, the fear, and the panic, only to realize that, in the distance, is more fear and panic but without the boredom. Climate change; political and economic instability; the biogenetic revolution; the revolution in artificial intelligence and robotics: as a cavalry these Horsemen bring both hope and despair behind them, certainty about the inevitability of radical, dramatic change and uncertainty about the survivability of: political democracy, Capitalism, work, civilization (as we know it), the species (humans engineering themselves into obsolescence or oblivion; going extinct through ecocide; …), and life itself. It is at the same time a revelation.
Can we think what that is, as we despair over what ends?
As the Anthropocene begins, as humanity realizes its constitutive role in the very geology of Earth, as humans become both a climatological and biological force of “nature,” as the climate increasingly reflects our own agency, as biological evolution begins to take shape as a determinate act of human choice (with of course unintended, and unknown/unknowable consequences — always unintended?) — as “nature” is as much us, and we are part of it — it is the Axial Age that itself comes to an end.
And yet we do not yet know what is to come, for the new world has not yet taken shape. We are in the process of bringing it into being. We are at a moment of the dynamic determination of history itself, as with every other sphere of activity we thought we could treat from a safe distance (nature, the economy, the climate, evolution, etc., etc.). We cannot get along with treating things as simply “out there.” The “out there” is also “in here,” and the “in here” is quite “out there” as well. This is a moment “between the acts.” We are in the interregnum not only of political and economic history, but of reality itself.
It is this “in between” space that I want to inhabit, to think my way through, and to think about, using Jaspers’s notion of the Axial Age.
AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 432
Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Tuesday 26 May 2020
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