Eugene Thacker

Darklife: Philosophy and the Problem of Life Itself

Date 4/26/10

Affiliation Theorist, Georgia Tech, Atlanta


Events at both the macro-scale and the micro-scale continually remind us of the radically unhuman aspects of life. Natural disasters, global pandemics, the ongoing effects in climate change, and advances in biotech and nanotech, are just some of the ways in which life expresses itself in ways that are at once 'above' and 'below' the scale of the human being. Life, it seems, is expressed 'in itself' as much as it is determined to exist 'for us'. Nowhere is this awareness more acutely registered than in contemporary culture, from popular disaster films to the contentious practices of bio art, tactical or interventionist art, and ecomedia.

But what exactly do we mean when we evoke the concept of life itself? Is there really a concept of life that is common to all the manifestations of the living? Is a concept of life itself necessary for thinking about all the different forms of the living? Are the twin concepts of life and the living always determined within the framework of 'generosity' - that is, as becoming, process, and flow? Or are there alternatives to thinking about life as defined neither in terms of being nor in terms of becoming? What inroads might contemporary art make into rethinking the concept of life itself?

In this talk we will explore the twists and turns of the idea of life itself as a key philosophical problematic in modernity, focusing on three main philosophical traditions: vitalism, phenomenology, and a third, under-considered approach of the 'dark' or meontological concept of nothingness.


Eugene Thacker is a writer and theorist whose works examine the philosophical aspects of science and technology. His most recent book is entitled 'After Life' and will be published by the University of Chicago Press. He is also the author of the books 'The Exploit: A Theory of Networks' (co-authored with Alexander Galloway), 'The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture,' and 'Biomedia.' Thacker is Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Communication & Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

-- As of 4/26/10