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Eugene Thacker
American philosopher and professor

Eugene Thacker

Eugene Thacker
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American philosopher and professor
Is Philosopher Critic Literary critic Journalist Professor
From United States of America
Field Academia Journalism Literature Philosophy
Gender male
The details (from wikipedia)


Eugene Thacker is an author and Professor at The New School in New York City. His writing is often associated with the philosophy of nihilism and pessimism. Thacker's most recent books are the Horror of Philosophy series (including the book In the Dust of This Planet) and Infinite Resignation. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Washington, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University.


Thacker's most widely read book is In the Dust of This Planet, part of his Horror of Philosophy trilogy. In it, Thacker explores the idea of the "unthinkable world" as represented in the horror fiction genre, in philosophies of pessimism and nihilism, and in the apophatic ("darkness") mysticism traditions. In the first volume, In the Dust of This Planet, Thacker calls the horror of philosophy "the isolation of those moments in which philosophy reveals its own limitations and constraints, moments in which thinking enigmatically confronts the horizon of its own possibility." Thacker distinguishes the "world-for-us" (the human-centric view of the world), and the "world-in-itself" (the world as it exists in essence), from what he calls the "world-without-us": "the world-without-us lies somewhere in between, in a nebulous zone that is at once impersonal and horrific."

Thacker's major philosophical work is After Life. In it, Thacker argues that the ontology of life operates by way of a split between "Life" and "the living," making possible a "metaphysical displacement" in which life is thought via another metaphysical term, such as time, form, or spirit: "Every ontology of life thinks of life in terms of something-other-than-life...that something-other-than-life is most often a metaphysical concept, such as time and temporality, form and causality, or spirit and immanence" Thacker traces this theme from Aristotle, to Scholasticism and mysticism/negative theology, to Spinoza and Kant, showing how this three-fold displacement is also alive in philosophy today (life as time in process philosophy and Deleuzianism, life as form in biopolitical thought, life as spirit in post-secular philosophies of religion). Ultimately Thacker argues for a skepticism regarding "life": "Life is not only a problem of philosophy, but a problem for philosophy.

Thacker's work has often been associated with contemporary philosophies of nihilism and pessimism, as well as to speculative realism. His text "Cosmic Pessimism" defines pessimism as "the philosophical form of disenchantment." The text begins with the following line: "Pessimism is the night-side of thought, a melodrama of the futility of the brain, a poetry written in the graveyard of philosophy."

In 2013 Thacker, along with Alexander Galloway and McKenzie Wark, published the book Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation. There Thacker writes about dark media or technologies that mediate between the natural and supernatural. In the opening of the book the authors ask "Does everything that exists, exist to me presented and represented, to be mediated and remediated, to be communicated and translated? There are mediative situations in which heresy, exile, or banishment carry the day, not repetition, communion, or integration. There are certain kinds of messages that state 'there will be no more messages'. Hence for every communication there is a correlative excommunication." This approach has been referred to as the "New York School of Media Theory."

Thacker's poetry and fiction has appeared in anthologies such as Degenerative Prose (published by Black Ice/FC2), Diagram: Selections from the Magazine (edited by Ander Monson), Debug: Primary Techno Noir (edited by Kenji Siratori), Alt-X, and Black Ice Magazine. Thacker has produced book arts projects, and an anti-novel titled An Ideal for Living, of which American poet and conceptual writer Kenneth Goldsmith has said: "this an important book...these pages take cues from Burroughs and Gibson, while at the same time presciently pointing to the web-based path writing would take over the next decade." With Ronald Sukenick and Mark Amerika, Thacker helped establish Alt-X Press, for which he edited the anthology Hard_Code. Thacker has also collaborated with art, media, and music collectives.

Thacker's earlier works adopt approaches from the philosophy of science & technology. Examples are his book Biomedia and writings on bioinformatics, nanotechnology, biocomputing, complexity, CAS (complex adaptive systems), swarms and networks. This work is also interested in the boundary between science and science fiction. An example is Thacker's concept of "biomedia" which he defines as following: "Biomedia entail the informatic recontextualization of biological components and processes, for ends that may be medical or nonmedical...and with effects that are as much cultural, social, and political as they are scientific." He goes on to clarify, saying: "biomedia continuously make the dual demand that information materialize itself as gene or protein compounds. This point cannot be overstated: biomedia depend upon an understanding of biological as informational but not immaterial."

Thacker distinguishes biomedia from traditional concepts of biotechnology, as seen in science fiction via cyborgs. With biomedia, he writes, "the emphasis is less on 'technology' as a tool, and more on the technical reconditioning of the 'biological.' It is this assumption that characterizes the concept of 'biomedia.'" Thacker explicitly distinguishes this from mechanical prosthetics and sci-fi tropes of downloading human consciousness into virtual reality. He writes, "By contrast, what we find with biomedia is a constant, consistent, and methodical inquiry into the technical-philosophical question of 'what a body can do.'" As an example of this, in his book The Global Genome, Thacker looks to recent developments in tissue engineering where readily apparent techno-mechanical apparatuses disappear altogether so that it appears as though technology is the natural body. Here, in Thacker's words, "Technology is thus invisible yet immanent." In this same book, Thacker connects biomedia to a notion of bioart, which he sees as a form of post-media politics conceptualized by French philosopher Félix Guattari and the concept of biopolitics in the work of Michel Foucault. Thacker redefines bioart from the common definition of art utilizing biology as its medium to art that makes "politically aware, critical, and ethically conscious interventions" enabled by nonspecialized engagement with biotechnology." He offers as examples Critical Art Ensemble, SubRosa, and the Australia-based art research lab Symbiotica.

Thacker is a regular contributor to The Japan Times Books section. He has written a column for Mute Magazine called "Occultural Studies." Thacker has also written the Forewords to the English editions of the works of E.M. Cioran, published by Arcade Press, as well as the Preface and Annotations to Clive Barker's novella Cabal, published by Fiddleblack Press. He has written about religion, art, and music (on black metal, Japanese noise, spectral music, and Requiem Mass).

In 2018, Thacker's new book, Infinite Resignation, a series of fragments and aphorisms on the nature of pessimism, was published by Repeater Books. One reviewer writes of the book: "Infinite Resignation belongs on the shelf next to the likes of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer...Like all great works of philosophy, this book will force readers to question their long-held beliefs in the way the world works and the way the world ought to work...Thacker's voice is quiet, a desperate whisper into the void that is both haunting and heartbreaking."


In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Nic Pizzolatto, creator and writer of True Detective, cites Thacker's In the Dust of This Planet as an influence on the TV series, particularly the worldview of lead character Rust Cohle, along with several other books: (Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound, Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Jim Crawford's Confessions of an Antinatalist, and David Benatar's Better Never To Have Been).

In September 2014 the WNYC's Radiolab ran a show entitled "In the Dust of This Planet." The program traced the appropriation of Thacker's book of the same name in contemporary art, fashion, music video, and popular culture. Both Thacker's book and the Radiolab podcast were covered by Glenn Beck on TheBlazeTV. Thacker has commented on 'nihilism memes' in an interview for The Awl: "Is it any accident that at a time when we have become acutely aware of the challenges concerning global climate change, we have also created this bubble of social media? I find social media and media culture generally to be a vapid, desperate, self-aggrandizing circus of species-specific solipsism — ironically, the stupidity of our species might be its only legacy."

Eugene Thacker and his work In the Dust of This Planet is referenced by Youtube channel Wisecrack.

Comic book author Warren Ellis cites as an influence the nihilist philosophies of Thacker and Peter Sjöstedt-H for his 2017 series Karnak: The Flaw in All Things. a re-imagining of the original Marvel Inhumans character Karnak.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 02 Feb 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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