Catastrophism: Creation Through Destruction

Perpetual Restlessness and Endless Revision
in the Absence of an Original:

In the last decade, F. W. J. von Schelling has emerged as one of the key philosophers of German Idealism, the one who, for the first time, undermined Kant’s philosophical revolution and in so doing opened up the way for a viable critique of Hegel. In noted philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s view, the main orientations of the post-Hegelian thought, from Kierkegaard and Marx, to Heidegger and today’s deconstructionism, were prefigured in Schelling’s analysis of Hegel’s idealism, and in his affirmation that the contingency of existence cannot be reduced to notional self-mediation. In The Abyss of Freedom, Zizek attempts to advance Schelling’s stature even further, with a commentary of the second draft of Schelling’s work The Ages of the World, written in 1813.

A new translation of the third and most sustained version of Schelling’s magnum opus, this great heroic poem is a genealogy of time. Anticipating Heidegger, as well as contemporary debates about post-modernity and the limits of dialectical thinking, Schelling struggles with the question of time as the relationship between poetry and philosophy. Thinking in the wake of Hegel, although trying to think beyond his grasp, this extraordinary work is a poetic and philosophical address of difference, of thinking’s relationship to its inscrutable ground.

1: The Theory of the Earth
2: Living and Fossil Elephants
3: The Megatherium from South America
4: A Research Program on Fossil Bones
5: An Appeal for International Collaboration
6: The Animals from the Gypsum Beds around Paris
7: A Pouched Marsupial from Paris
8: Popular Lectures on Geology
9: A Review of Fossil Pachyderms
10: A Report on Andre’s Theory of the Earth
11: The Progress of Geological Science
12: The Geology of the Region around Paris
13: Fossil Deer and Cattle
14: Collected Researches on Fossil Bones
15: The Revolutions of the Globe

1: Smooth and Sudden Changes
2: Multidimensional Geometry
3: Multidimensional Calculus
4: Critical Points and Transversality
5: Machines Revisited
6: Structural Stability
7: Determinacy and Unfoldings
8: The First Seven Catastrophic Geometries
9: The Stability of Ships
10: The Geometry of Fluids
11: Optics and Scattering Theory
12: Elastic Structures
13: Thermodynamics and Phase Structures
14: Laser Physics
15: Biology and Ecology

Understanding Catastrophe examines the immense and varied impact that catastrophic change can have on the development of life on earth. Opening with a remarkable account of supernovae and the nature of stellar catastrophe, it then examines the way evolution itself can proceed through genetic jumps of catastrophic proportions. The primal forces of the earth, manifested in such natural catastrophes as earthquakes and cyclones, and the devastating impact these can have even today on human populations across the world receive extended scrutiny as does the power of famine historically in determining the future of humankind. To conclude, a fascinating final chapter on changing medical and social attitudes to epidemic diseases such as tuberculosis offers – in the age of AIDS particularly – some unsettling insights into our fundamental incapacity when confronted by major threats to life and health.

University of Cambridge Press, 2006

1: Supernovae and Stellar Catastrophe
2: The Extinction of the Dinosaurs
3: Darwin and Catastrophism
4: Earthquakes
5: Storms and Cyclones
6: Famine in History
7: The Case of Consumption

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2 Responses to Catastrophism: Creation Through Destruction

  1. Will C. says:

    There have been a few occasions in which I’ve wondered: “What the fuck is he doing?” But, I find–more often than not–your blog has manifested itself into an admirable work. My sentiments are more pressing–probably to myself alone–in light of such a meek literary culture which has manifested itself in current years, specifically online. Also, it’s nice to see someone knows how to have some form of context w/ the pics they use.

    • I’m greatly appreciative of your sustained willingness to practice reflective as opposed to determinative judgment while reading my blogging. And I’m grateful for your supportive words. They help me more than you might image. As is painfully evident, this is an almost entirely thankless endeavor. So, in an effort to remedy that situation, let me thank you.

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