The End of Time

Parrhesia 15:87-105 (2012)

Ashley Woodward
Dundee University
Approximately one trillion, trillion, trillion (101728) years from now, the universe will suffer a “heat death.” What are the existential implications of this fact for us, today? This chapter explores this question through Lyotard’s fable of the explosion of the sun, and its uptake and extension in the works of Keith Ansell Pearson and Ray Brassier. Lyotard proposes the fable as a kind of “post-metanarrative” sometimes told to justify research and development, and indeed the meaning of our individual lives, after credulity in metanarratives has been lost: it replaces the adventure of the subject of history aimed towards the perfection and emancipation of the human with the adventure of inhuman, negentropic processes aimed towards the survival and extension of complexity. Ansell Pearson illustrates how contemporary transhumanists employ such a narrative, and critiques it from a Nietzschean perspective as preserving values which are nihilistic. Brassier employs it to argue against the phenomenological view that thought must be bounded by the horizonal correlate of the body and the earth, and to advance the argument that thought should abandon all meaning and purpose and embrace nihilism. This final chapter seeks to negotiate each of these positions, showing how Lyotard’s thought helps us to reflect on the existential significance of the “deep time” revealed by contemporary science.
Keywords Ray Brassier  Charles Jencks  Keith Ansell-Pearson  nihilism
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