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End Times Thoughts

For a new radical age of enlightenment. We must accept the incompleteness and limitations of our truths
PHILOSOPHY / While postmodernism involved an explosion, today's posthumous condition, according to Marina Garcés, involves a liquidation of all possibilities – an implosion. Yes, are the hopes we cling to today just market-adapted needs for hope?


"It is the end of the livable time," asserts Marina Garcés in this philosophical pamphlet: "We live in the posthumous state."

"What comes after postmodernism?" asked Trond Berg Eriksen once, and here is the answer: After postmodernism comes the posthumous condition. But is this book intended only as a status report and nothing more? A status report on the misery of our time? As is well known, postmodernism was far more than a state of the art report. It became an entire ideology, and how can one condition take over for one ideology?

Well, firstly, Garcés does not claim that the posthumous condition has taken over for postmodernism. The posthumous condition and postmodernism can very well live side by side. Second, the posthumous state is not something that comes after something else. It is the time when time as a measurable unit of development is discontinued. Then it is no longer possible either to look back or to look forward. And then the posthumous state cannot come either by postmodernism. Because then we would be able to look back and understand the posthumous condition as a continuation of postmodernism. We can rather see them as two universes crossing each other, where postmodernism dismantled the belief in progress and opened up an infinity of different time dimensions, while the posthumous state causes all possibilities to collide. Basically, postmodernism meant liberation. The posthumous state, on the other hand, is not a liberation from or to anything. Rather, it implies a liquidation of all possibilities, it is an implosion, whereas postmodernism was an explosion. While postmodernism was an explosive release of all possibilities, now all possibilities for hope have ended. Because the possibility of hope presupposes, as is well known, that there is a future to direct one's hope towards.

A pure act of suicide?

In the posthumous state, we cannot even speak of a decline, according to Garcés. Because now we are where all time has ended. "We are posthumous because the irrevocability of our civilizational death somehow belongs to an experience of something that has already occurred," writes the author. The only thing left is an end to life. But wait, she wrote that this liquidation left standing? If we are to believe Garcés, the liquidation has already occurred. And there is no possibility of going back to what was, because that would be nostalgia. But the philosopher is not exclusively out to tell us that we must all resign ourselves to this ideology. The book is called after all For a new radical age of enlightenment. Garcés writes: "Declaring that we do not submit to the posthumous ideology is, for me, the most important task in today's critical thinking."

To submit to the posthumous ideology would, according to Garcés, be a pure act of suicide. She therefore advocates a re-actualization of the information project. But wait, isn't the author now guilty of the nostalgia she so strongly warned against only a few pages before? Namely by trying to bring a broken past to life, to inflate an ideal that has long since been punctured? No, she does not believe in the well-worn words that knowledge will lead to liberation, "because we really know everything", as she writes, "we just can't do anything with what we know".

A new beginning

The posthumous state is thus the time when everything comes to an end. So what do we do then? Out of sheer desperation we begin to look for new planets to inhabit. We are trying to escape from our own self-annihilation. In this way, we hope to be able to create a new beginning.

Where we hope, the standardization is already present.

But it is a beginning that already contains the end. The end has already come, so to speak. Where we hope, the standardization is already present. The hope we cling to is market adapted to our needs for hope. And therefore hope is also part of the final product.

"We have lost the future," writes Garcés, "but we cannot continue to lose time." It's a strange wording. So we have to go back in time? But with no future to hope for? What is time without a future? An eternal present? Is this book a kind of "modern day nostalgia"? Does the author fall into the nostalgia trap anyway? Maybe she's falling into that trap.

In any case, I am not interested in trying to pin her down by pointing out possible inconsistencies in the text, because I read this little book as a very meaningful and hopeful text. And so I read it with enthusiasm, hope and goodwill. The author is in fact advocating for "[b]ignificant relationships between the lived and the livable, between what has happened, what has been lost, and what remains to be done'. So it still can't be too late, so all hope still can't be killed. Because then what she advocates here would not be possible to achieve.

Garcés diagnoses relentlessly like a doctor, while at the same time advocating for a new radical age of enlightenment that we should all embark on and work towards, "as a work carried out by weavers who are at once indomitable, mistrustful and trusting" . This philosopher is not only relentless, but also blessedly full of dreams and hopes like a true poet in her ability to revive what she just declared dead. Because it is difficult to see that anything can happen by the end, when there is no longer anything "after"? But it is these contradictions that make this book interesting.

Gives us hope

At the end of the book, the author sets out five hypotheses that give us hope. Hypothesis four reads: "In the common destiny of mankind, the most relevant epistemological fact of our time is the rediscovery of the nature-culture continuum." She believes in "mutual universalities for joint exploration". And then this author has given me more than I dared to hope for before I started reading. So this book has managed to give me what the author thought was not possible: a hope for mutually meaningful interaction between people.

Henning Næs
Henning Næss
Literary critic in MODERN TIMES.

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