The Topos of the Earth: Telescopic and Stereoscopic Visions of the Abyss-in-One

Reza Negarestani

Thursday 21 February, 2013
6:30pm, $0

The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, James Gallery

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'What are the implications of locating the topos of the earth within a cosmological continuum’, ‘whatdoes the local have in store for thought’, ‘what does it mean to be local or regional’, ‘where am I, wheredo I come from, in what direction do I proceed’, ‘how do systematic decisions and rational orientationswith regard to local methods and exigencies shape the navigational dynamism of knowledge’, thesequestions constitute one of the most central aspects of the modern system of knowledge, namely, theproblem of localization. It is by way of inferring the topoi of knowledge or locating sites through whichthe world can be thought and the space of the universal can be navigated that the germinal edifice ofknowledge expands its frontiers. Whether as the space of the concept or the particular cosmological horizon that brings about the possibility of thought, the local outlines the navigational task of thephilosopher with regard to analysis and synthesis, committing to worldly problems and speculating out ofthis world. Only through a systematic approach to the question of localization is it possible to embarkupon a non-trivial philosophy of analysis and synthesis. Furthermore, a modern understanding of the local allows a more thorough examination of the valence of various epistemological tools and modes ofinference as normative methodologies for the navigation of the space of the concept qua a local site. 

Since the modern system of knowledge is understood as a multimodal system of navigation endowed withuniversal orientation, the question of the topos or the site of the local is linked to the question ofepistemology and knowledge both in its analytical and synthetic dimensions. It will be argued that the local – like the global – is not a datum given a priori. Instead the determination of the local is a proceduraltask always threatened by the impotency of the generic perspective and the localist myopia of theparticular. We shall argue that the task of localization needs to be understood as an oblique procedure thatoperates by means of certain 'perspective operators' and ‘epistemic mediators’. These perspectiveoperators or navigational tools are able to interweave depth and surface, the generic and the vague(particular) and diagonally connect the diachronic to the synchronic (telescopic view), or cohere variousdepths such as the scientific and manifest images of the local (stereoscopic vision) so as to bring into focus the local and determine its relation to the open, the space of the Universal or the real. The dual taskof 'focalization' and 'depth-tracking' of the local constitutes the panorama of what should be called a vertiginous enlightenment – i.e. inferring the horizon of the local from both generic-to-particular and vague-to-generic, universal-to-regional and regional-to-universal perspectives. The vertiginousenlightenment is but the reading of the local according to and within the abyss. 

The aim of this lecture is to examine the problem of localization and its imports for a speculativecosmology and an ultramodern understanding of the system of knowledge through the theoreticalappropriation of two pivotal concepts: (a) Homothetic variations of the local and (b) Yoneda addressing (built on the concept of Yoneda lemma in topos theory and category theory). These concepts assist us in studying the problem of localization in the wake of the vertiginous enlightenment and a new definition ofthe local: The local is now defined by its continuously unfolding ramified path structures and alternativeaddresses. That is to say, the local cannot be approached via any conception of given fixed coordinates.Since the local is not invariant under topos-inference, every act of localization finds the local site within anew set of coordinates because each telescopic and stereoscopic inspection into the topos of the local unlocks new addresses and brings to light contingent path structures, further distancing the local from itsspurious roots that try to strictly demarcate it. Therefore, we can say that the local is defined not by its roots but by its ramified path structures into the open and its ever-changing alternative addresses whichunravel as it is telescopically and stereoscopically determined and brought into focus. An understanding of the local via its alternative addresses and contingent sidetracks should be interpreted as a concept ofnon-ineffable depth through which the open, the universal or the real freely expresses itself in the local and the local ramifies into the open or gains traction upon the universal. It is this depthwise definition ofthe local that simultaneously diverges from Nietzschean-Heideggerian and Deleuze-Guattarian variants ofa true-to-the-earth philosophy toward a geophilosophy as a local thought procedure whose topos is a true-to-the-universe earth. 


Reza Negarestani is an Iranian philosopher and novelist. His philosophical works have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. He is the author of Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials.

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