In The Dust Of This Planet - Eugene Thacker
The book begins with a comparative that does not exist: “The world is becoming increasingly unthinkable. But perhaps new linguistic formulas are needed to approach the world as it is today, a “world of planetary catastrophes, emerging pandemics, tectonic shifts, strange weather phenomena… and the danger of extinction always lurking in the background.” Eugene Thacker’s analysis of the present is composed of equal parts philosophical discourse and an analysis of horror fantasies in novels and movies in an attempt to somehow get the unthinkable thought after all.
According to Thacker, here too in the creeping apocalyptic mode of the comparative, “it is becoming increasingly difficult to comprehend the world…. to understand the world. To grapple with this idea is to come up against an absolute limit to what we can understand about the world at all”-and this, Thacker says, “is an idea that has long been a central motif of the horror genre.” In a nutshell, the thesis is that horror is a non-philosophical attempt to think philosophically about the world.
At the edge of the conceivable
With this thesis in tow, Thacker sneaks up one time after another on the edge of the understandable, which each time becomes the edge of the thinkable and sooner or later the edge of the sayable. This is thoroughly topical, which is all the more surprising since the English original was published back in 2011, as the first volume of a trilogy entitled “Horror of Philosophy.”
This explicitly does not mean a “philosophy of horror,” but rather “the horror of philosophy”-that is, thinking the unthinkable, whereby the use of italics at this point can possibly be read as a very subtle allusion: 100 pages later, Thacker says of the crown witness of all horror commentators, the writer H.P. Lovecraft, that italics in his prose “always indicate an epiphany of cosmic horror… “
And the epiphany — that is, the appearance, as unexpected as it is powerful — of an almost cosmic horror is just beginning to become an everyday occurrence in our present: unquenchable conflagrations, swarms of locusts destroying civilizations, pandemics that cannot be contained….
Mysticism should be climatological today In the end, the horror of philosophy tempts the author to call for a new mysticism. “If historical mysticism is in the last instance theological,” Thacker’s final words, “mysticism today — a mysticism of the inhuman — would have to be in the last instance climatological… a mysticism that can only be expressed in the dust of this planet.” And this has previously been stirred up by weather capers in the course of global warming. What, astonishingly, already J.G. Ballards processed into tangible horror in his novel “The Storm from Nowhere” from 1961 — and, as one recognizes after reading Thacker’s essay, philosphically as well as according to all rules of genre literature.