In the New York Times, Simon Critchley has written a series of essays on the revelatory experiences and Gnosticism of Philip K. Dick, the sci-fi writer and "garage philosopher" who claimed to write and read "in the mind of God." Critchley writes,
Crazy as it doubtless must sound, I think that Dick's gnosticism responds to a deep and essential anxiety of our late modern times. The irrepressible rise of a deterministic scientific worldview threatens to invade and overtake all those areas of human activity that we associate with literature, culture, history, religion and the rest.
After using Dick's Gnostical worldview to explain the paranoid style of contemporary American politics, Critchley proposes an alternative to a pervasive determinism:
Ask yourself: what does one do in the face of a monistic all-consuming naturalism? We can embrace it, hoping to wrest whatever shards of wonder and meaning we can from inquiries into the brain or the cosmos sold as brightly colored trade hardbacks, written by reputable, often prize-winning, scientists. Or we can reject scientific determinism by falling back into some version of dualism. That could mean embracing a spiritual or religious metaphysics of whatever confection, or - if one is still nostalgic for the disappointed modernism of, say, Kafka or Beckett - by falling back upon a lonely, alienated self in a heartless world of anomie.
But perhaps another way is open, one that is neither entirely naturalistic nor religious nor some redux of modernist miserabilism.
The Faith of the Faithless, Simon Critchley's new book on political theology, continues to stir up debate across academia and the media with its critical and insightful take on the nexus of religion, anarchism and violence.
Creston Davis, writing for PoliticalTheology.com, sees Critchley's reading of Wilde's De Profundis as Critchley's "extraordinary insight": a profound understanding of the point in Wilde's imprisonment where "traditional, passive faith becomes activated on the ground-zero level of the subject-void who enacts faith aesthetically, creatively, and inventively". It was this moment, when Wilde had lost the most, that he could develop a "a political-subjective socialistic consciousness." As Davis writes,
The political and religious subject in Simon's book is the individual who discovers himself or herself paradoxically when they are socially lost, abandoned, and alienated from social norms and general consciousness.
In a very revealing—and apparently boozy—interview with Full Stop, Simon Critchley recently opened up on a wide range of topics, discussing at length everything from love and death to faith and politics, and touching on how recent turns in his life set his political and philosophical worldview in a new direction. The discussion usefully clarifies many of the important theoretical moves he makes in his new book The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology and provides an immediately salient political context—especially in light of the Occupy movements—in which to understand his reflections on the relation between love, representation, democracy and belief.
For instance, he says:
Faith is a subjective commitment to something that places a demand on you, that places a call on you. There are people that will believe that the source of that call is a divinity; there are people that will believe that the source of that call isn't. It's not for me to decide one way or the other - the experience of faith is the same. If I understand faith as a faith in the existence of a deity, I still can't make that leap - and then philosophy is atheism. But if faith is understood as, let's say, an ethical disposition of the self as a kind of commitment that the self makes, then I think faith makes sense to me. So the word "faith" can be used in very different ways. But it's a question that I do ask myself and perhaps should ask myself on a deeper level, I think. One of the formulations I come up with in The Faith of the Faithless is that politics is association without representation. It's a form of being together that doesn't necessarily require the forms of voting, representative assemblies, parliaments, houses of congress and all the rest. So politics is really at its essence a form of direct democracy. The Occupy Movement was playing that out, I think, in a very incredible way.
Visit Full Stop to read the interview in full.
Simon Critchley, in a wide-ranging interview in the New Statesman, discusses "theologically engaged atheism", Dawkins, Hitchens, John Gray, Obama, and what the future holds for Occupy.
Picking up on an argument he makes in his new book The Faith of the Faithless, Critchley rejects that dichotomy between secularism and "theistic quietism", and argues that,
We cannot decide a priori that we're not going to engage with religious questions, nor can we decide a priori that religious questions are going to be the answers to philosophical or political issues.
Commenting on what he calls the "secularist dogmatism" of figures like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Critchley discusses the relationship between science and belief that characterizes the present moment,
I accept not a scientific conception of the world - that is far too grand - but I think that scientists in their various fields are doing fairly well. Yet I don't think you can explain practices like mathematics on a naturalistic view of the world. Naturalism, underpinned by a progressivist notion of history, underwritten by evolution, is a dogma that our age suffers from.
But I understand why people embrace it, because it seems to offer an answer to superstitious theodicy.
After the Occupy Wall Street "People's Library" was brutally dismantled by the police, Paolo Mossetti of Through Europe asked some of his favourite writers, activists, and academics to help him compile a list of books that would recreate, though only virtually, the library's shelves.
Here is the third part, with contributions from Gar Alperovitz, Mike Davis, Enrico Donaggio, Ann Ferguson, Shabnam Hashmi, John Holloway, Sandro Mezzadra, Douglas Rushkoff, Felix Stalder.
The fourth part of the reading list will be online next week.