Extinction, again

by Arran James

Whatever pretension to a philosophy of time that Catastrophia has it is one that is thoroughly linear. There is only one moment in the catastrophic thought and it is the moment in which all other moments take place. All temporalities, all spacetimes, exist within that spacetime of beginning and end. It is axiomatic for the catastrophic thought that the original catastrophe is the coming into existence of anything whatsoever. In theological language it is Creation that is catastrophic, a singular disaster that- given the absence of a transcendental divinity to have created it- is without any justification. This time, this time inaugurated by the ontological explosion, that truly original accident that was generative of substance, is the time that is also bound to entropy, to that third law of thermodynamics, to the process that will eventual dissolve reality. The universe, that most large scale of hyperobjects, is inextricably headed towards the dark era, the future period in which matter has thoroughly disintegrated and the last beings will exist as isolated monads incapable of even colliding with one another and eventually…the universe itself may cease. Or, given that here all that remains is the quantum level, anything may happen. But the dark and the cold will have vanquished the vibrant, the vital, the existing. From the moment of the explosion to the moment of the last positrons slowing down and the last electron going out (as it were) we find the entire history of that aberration of existence. This cosmological extinction is the extinction par excellence, and the arguments of philosophers as to whether it cripples or motivates us is already to bring this last extinction under the domesticating influence of a comforting thought. Catastrophic time is the temporality within which all other times play out. There is no possible subject who can experience this moment, no possible way to tame this time which is properly nothing but the happening of an event, the only ontological event worthy of attention. It is therefore a time that neither occurs in the blink of an eye or that extends itself into an infinite. Explosion and evaporation.

I have argued before that all our tasks for the future consist in little else than a self-managed extinction. There is no way out. OR, there is only choosing our way out. The inelegant concept of ‘existential catastrophe’ [1] (brought to my attention by a post at misanthropology) is one that elides the fundamental point that we are because of, inside of, part of the original catastrophe. We are catastrophic, always already. The idea that we can escape from precariousness, as the authors of the same paper that coins ‘existential catastrophe’, propagate is one that is fundamentally stupid. This comes as no surprise though. It is the same stupidity that is the motor of human success, that forms part of the coalition against death into which each of us is inaugurated through the development of consciousness.

Any post-nihilistic pragmatics will require that we operate consciously within catastrophic time and that we surrender the impossible task of removing precariousness from the human condition. These are the same project in fact, given that the former reveals to us the anthropocentrism of the latter…the benign revelation that precariousness is the condition of all things. IF this garners the accusation of privelging the perspective of extinction and heat death then this is a necessary part of the pragmatic ethics of a self-management of extinction. As I have said before, the task now is to think the ethics of palliative care for the species. The dream of species-being is realised at last.

[1]/ Here.