Factish God(s)

The following is my comment posted in response to a blog by Sam Mickey about the potential of an object-oriented theology.

Postsecularity might also be termed “the After Age.” Perhaps the “end of history” is the beginning of an integral phase of civilization, where the transparent permeability of eternity and time, spirit and matter, reason and myth, art and earth is (re)collected. If “postsecularity” is not simply the return to mythic consciousness and static cosmology, though, what does it mean to leave the presentist philosophy of secular humanism and/or scientific naturalism behind? We need new some new paths to explore. I’m definitely in agreement that Harman’s object-orientation is an experiment in ontology that should be conducted in theology as well.
A few thoughts…
Factish gods remind me of the occult concept of an “egregore“, a sort of collective-thought form that incorporates individuals into decision patterns larger than their separate perceptuo-conscious awarenesses. This would seem to have more to do with a straightforwardly fetishized God than a factish God. The implication for occultism seems to be that fetish Gods (i.e., idols) are psychosocial fabrications and not true divinities. It may be helpful, then, to mark the difference between God as fetish and God as factish. The former involves the projection of soul onto inanimate objects or social forces, the later grants God its own “submergent” properties, in Harman’s terms, since God retains the capacity to act independent of any human projections (meaning God exists independently of its effects upon even the unconscious human psyche). An egregore is a fetish because it doesn’t exceed the sum of its psychosocietal relations: no society of psyches, no egregore. On the other hand, the Sun, as an object with both sensual notes and real qualities, is a factish God, since it is granted a molten core, or a soul, of its own. It would go on being itself even if all the psyches on the earth were to die.

Schelling’s Naturephilosophy and Hegel’s Exclusion of Geology

Will commented on “Schelling’s Geocentric Realism” to defend the position of Nature in Hegel’s Logic from its realist inversion. I wanted to make Iain Hamilton Grant‘s position on the matter available (from “Schellingianism & Postmodernity: Towards a Materialist Naturphilosophie“):

As a shorthand for his synthetic programme, as opposed to the Hegelian system as to mechanical reduction, Schelling offers, in his Philosophical Inquiries “potentiated”, “intensified” or “vitalised Spinozism”, from which, he goes on, “there developed a Philosophy of Nature” (1989: 22-3). Schelling “intensifies” Spinozist nature by dynamizing it, introducing dark, unconscious forces into its production that extend even to mind’s self-production as a natural product. Just as Spinoza’s Deus sive natura, ‘God and/or nature’, consitutes an inclusive disjunctive synthesis, so the intensified Spinozism of Schelling’s Naturphilosophie is “merely one of [philosophy’s] parts”, a part which must be conjoined with the “philosophy of the idea” as laid out in the System of Transcendental Idealism. The crucial difference between this conjunction and Hegel’s global misconstrual of Kantian local synthesis is that Hegel will view the philosophy of nature as a teleological step towards the absolution of mere objecthood in mind’s self-recognition, whereas Schelling’s local and dynamic synthesis deploys the conjunction at the point of the loss of the idea’s conscious production as mind. In other words, if for Hegel, the identity of production and product is mind, for Schelling, the recognition of nature as product entails the isolation of the production of conscious mind, appearing to mind as the cessation of its own production. In Kantian terms, we might say that the recognition of the final form of the categorical imperative in the power of desire to manufacture the world confronts in nature the limitations of reason’s industrial jurisdiction. At the same time, however, natural production remains continuous and unconscious, so that the antinomy is one for consciouness alone. This break with phenomenological adequation, coterminous with the noumenal positing of nature as unconscious production (extending, it should be said, from the point of view of the philosophy of nature, even to the production of mind itself, so that in producing itself as mind, the mind is unconscious of itself as production; from these two senses of, we may derive the Freudian distinction between the dynamic and the descriptive, as the appendices to The Ego and the Id [Standard Edition XIX] call them), amounts simultaneously to the materialisation of this unconscious production as the dynamics of nature. Named by turns das Regellose (the unruly), evil, the basis, the primal chaos or ataxia of forces, this “irreducible remainder that cannot be resolved into reason” (1989: 34), this point marks the synthesis between mind and nature as antinomy (to be resolved, in concert with Kant, through the practical effort of will) and rulelessness, respectively. To take the materialist route cannot therefore be a metaphysical error, but can only be a practical one, an error which Schelling calls the “exalt[ation] of the basis over the cause” (1989: 41). But the price of maintaining what, for ease of exposition if too swiftly to be remotely accurate, we may call the Idealist route, is the perpetuation of the unresolvably antimonic chiasmus between nature and mind in unconsciousness. Schellingian idealism, then, does not entail the annihilation of materialism (on which the preface to the Critique of Pure Reason insists), but the regionalisation of mind with respect to matter, and the simultaneous explanation of the former in terms of the latter. For Schelling, mind does not represent nature, it confronts it as a product that antinomically cuts mind off from its own production.

Mind cannot comprehend Nature as an object, because Nature is not just a product or thing, but is the same productivity that makes possible our own consciousness of it as such. Nature is not mere externality; it is full of dynamic intention. Nature is creative, just as creative as the productive imagination underlying our conscious perception of an ordered, rational world. In fact, for Grant, productive Nature is the ground of human Nature, the source of our experience of produced nature (be it subjective/psychic or objective/somatic). Does this mean that the philosophical Absolute—rather than identification with object or subject, externality or internality, Nature or Spirit—is identification with productivity in general (be it human or natural)?

Grant points to Hegel’s “stupefying judgment” in S 339 of the Encyclopedia that geology has no philosophical relevance (p. 41, The Speculative Turn, 2011). Schelling’s generative naturephilosophy reveals Nature to be more than a present appearance, but a developmental process whose anterior layers of materialization, though hidden, condition subsequent layers. “If the actual involves genesis, then at no point do presently actual objects exhaust the universe” (ibid., p. 43). By arguing that Eternity excludes the past and the future, but is fully present now, Hegel turns the anteriority of the earth into into an abstract idea, rather than the condition of our present consciousness of it:

“Geology isn’t simply philosophically irrelevant to Hegel, but fatal to the eternity of the world, precisely because it necessarily posits an anteriority even to the becoming of the planetary object” (ibid., p. 44).

In other words, “no planet, no geology.” The geogenesis of the earth has provided the conditions making consciousness possible (Grant lists several of these conditions: “meteorological metastasis, chemical complexification, speciation, neurogony, informed inquiry…” [ibid., p. 45]).