Bennett, Vibrant Matter, Chapter 1, Last Section

CHAPTER 1, SECTION VI: “THE NAÏVE AMIBITION OF VITAL MATERIAISM”

She begins by noting that too often the “out-side” (think of Meillassoux’s “the Great Outdoors” from After Finitude) is brought back to “human agency as its ultimate source” (p. 17). But getting to this “out-side” is “indirec[t]” and “aporetic.”

This part of the chapter is basically a short manifesto: “Vital materialists will thus try to linger in those moments during which they find themselves fascinated by objects, taking them as clues to the material vitality that they share with them” (p. 17). We thus arrive back at the beginning of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, where thaumazein or wonder causes us to consider being-qua-being, or about the things themselves, but not by using a method abstracting back for sense perception (as in Aristotle) but by seeing ourselves in terms of this dissemination of things. She calls this “fascination” a “naiveté,” which as her work spreads, may give off the kind of snarky comments once used for Vattimo’s “weak thought.” But Bennett is merely (or audaciously) repeating the trick of Aristotle, Husserl, Heidegger, and so many others: to turn to our wonder at things and “avo[w] the force of questions” (she’s quoting from Bill Brown’s “Thing Theory”).

Thus, turning the usual issue of the fetish around, she argues, by giving into this certain naiveté (she cites Deleuze as a fellow traveler, who also uses the term), we are not, she thinks, without ambition, and merely fetishizing objects. We are, she argues, taking on the fetish for the “subject, the image, the word.” These are just some of the vital matters in this book.

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