Ansell Pearson’s Viroid Life

Keith Ansell Pearson
Viroid Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche and the Transhuman Condition
Area: Digital Media

• Neo-Lamarckism: (demands giving ourselves ‘over’ to the future) in blind faith as a quasi-Heidegerrian destiny (only a machine can save us)
• Non-affective machines: thought exists without a body
o No future of/for invention: no future at all
• Nietzschean conception of the transhuman condition
• Thought needs to embark on a new negotiation with technology
• Technics is both the sign/mark of human distinctive futurity and the source of the artificial character of human inventions and evolutions
• D&G: rhizomatic/machinic becomings don’t so much place ‘in’ evolution as create or invent it, so marking ‘of’ evolution as an event of genuine becoming
o Bergson’s creative evolution
• Guattari: within the machinic universe beings have only the status of virtual entities; that is they are sites of becoming in which what becomes is always something alien
• The task of working through the transhuman condition thus involves the task of thinking beyond the ‘beyond’
1: “In this volume of essays I question, problematize, overturn, revalue, announce, renounce, advocate, interrogate, affirm, deny, celebrate, critique, the ‘transhuman condition,’ exploring the human as a site of contamination and abduction by alien forces and rendering, in the process, the phenomenon polyvalent and polysemous.”
3: “In 1979 Lyotard defined the ‘postmodern condition’ as ‘incredulity’ in the face of those grand or meta-narratives which have served to provide human existence with teleological meaning and significance, so that the lament of the loss of meaning in postmodernity boils down to mourning the fact that knowledge is now no longer principally narrative.”
4: “However, these new realities demand not an impetuous abandonment of a thinking and valuing of the ‘human’ condition, but rather a radical re-examination and revaluation, in which one would show the extent to which this condition has always been a matter of invention and reinvention, that is, always a matter of the transhuman. The grand narrative today is likely to take the form of a facile quasi-Hegelianism in which the rise of the machine is construed in linear and perfectionist terms: the ever-growing inhuman character of ‘technology’ resides in the ‘simple’ fact that it is machines that are proving to be more successful in creating an adequate response to the tasks laid down by evolution that the creatures whose existence first gave rise to it.”
5: “To declare that technology amounts to ‘the pursuit of life by means other than life’ is not to provide insight into the past and future condition of evolution but to encourage blindness regarding matters of life and death within late-capital. Such a claim deprives us of any genuinely interesting and critical in-humanity.”
Chapter 1: Loving the Poison: The Memory of the Human and the Promise of the Overhuman
• Deleuze uses Freud’s notion of mnemonic trace: consciousness born at the site of a memory trace
• Deleuze: in Nietzsche and Freud we find two themes of memory:
o Traces of memory become so indelibly stamped on his conscious that he is no longer capable of action (which requires forgetting). Not that his only action is reaction; rather, he’s unable to act out reaction since he feels his reaction, making it endless
o Active memory that no longer rests on traces; no longer simply a function of the past, but has become transformed into an activity of the future
• Interpreting and deciphering are the process of production itself
o We repeat the past to discharge and create beyond/beyond ourselves
• Deleuze: time as subject, or subjectification, is called memory
o Absolute memory endlessly forgotten and reconstituted
23: “Memory is viewed as functioning in terms of a punctual organization in which the present refers simultaneously to a horizontal line that captures the flow of time, moving from an old present to an actual present, and to a vertical line that captures the order of time, going from the present to the past, or to the representation of the old present.”
24: “The opposition drawn between ‘memory’ and ‘becoming’ not only rests on an unmediated privileging of becoming, but also ignores the illumination that Deleuze’s earlier work brings to bear on the source of the tremendous power of memory. Becoming is inconceivable without memory, including a technics of memory, in which the ‘product’ always exceeds the law of production.”
26: “As Deleuze maintains in his study of Proust, memory works as a ‘tool’ – one not simply subject to a willful manipulation and exploitation of the human, all to human kind that can be placed in the service of an overcoming. The subject ‘of’ memory is nothing other than this self-overcoming. Thus, he can contend that the orientation of Proust’s work is not the past and the discoveries of memory, but rather the future and the progress of learning.”


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November 2008
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