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Philip K. Dick’s Errant Ontology

Sep 24,16:00-21:00, 2015
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with James Burton, Fabienne Collignon, Alexander Dunst, and Laurence A. Rickels

The work of Philip K. Dick, best known as a master of ontologically and psychologically unsettling science fiction, has had a wide-ranging if sporadic influence on modern cultural theory, playing key roles in works by thinkers such as Jean Baudrillard, Erik Davis, Katherine Hayles, Fredric Jameson, Laurence Rickels and Steven Shaviro. In this one-day symposium, comprising a workshop and panel discussion, three Dick scholars address his continuing significance for the contemporary rethinking of subjectivity, the (post)human, and ontology.


16:00 - 18:30
Workshop
Errant Ontology: Exegesis and Nonhuman Being

In 1974, renowned science fiction writer Philip K. Dick began to experience a series of visions which he attributed to a mysterious entity with qualities that seemed to lie somewhere between the alien and the divine. He would spend the remaining 8 years of his life seeking to explain these encounters, recording his attempts in the collection of writings that eventually stretched to 8,000 pages, and which he came to think of as his “Exegesis.”

In this workshop we will take up, through a selection of brief excerpts, a recurring theme of the “Exegesis,” that of nonhuman subjectivity. Drawing on ideas from theology, mysticism, psychology, information theory and modern science, Dick engages in a seemingly interminable effort to think the notion of a perceiving, communicating, feeling being that would not be bound to human modes of existence, bodily, psychological or social, thus destabilizing the ontologies of both subject and object. We will attend not only to the ideas and figures that emerge, but to the effects of Dick’s aberrant method – or lack of method – as he tinkers, in a manner Erik Davis has referred to as “garage philosophy,” with bits and pieces of ideas snatched from encylopedias, fiction and various other readily available sources of information – not the least being his own dreams and visions.


19:30 - 21:00
Discussion
Stumbling on the Posthuman

The significance of Dick’s science fiction for posthumanist thought is reflected in his influence on cultural theory, notably Katherine Hayles’ How We Became Posthuman. Yet it can be argued that Dick does not develop a coherent posthumanist perspective by design, but rather arrives at something like one by default, through repeatedly setting out to find the human and stumbling across the absence at its core. In this sense, the repeated inversions and superimpositions of humans and androids found in many of his narratives seem to suggest that the human was only ever an artificial construct – literally an android – to begin with. The panel will feature three short presentations and a discussion of Dick’s continuing significance for contemporary posthumanism and its ethical, ontological and political stakes.

Followed by the book launch of James Burton’s The Philosophy of Science Fiction (Bloomsbury, 2015) and The World According to Philip K. Dick (Palgrave, 2015), edited by Alexander Dunst and Stefan Schlensag.



Please note: there is no need to register for this public event, but the workshop session will discuss short excerpts from Dick’s Exegesis (10-15 pages) and a critical essay by Richard Doyle. Please contact (info(at)ici-berlin.org) if you would like to receive these excerpts in advance.


Programme (PDF)


Time: Thursday, 24 September 2015, 16:00-21:00
Venue: ICI Berlin
In English

This event is organised by James Burton (ICI Berlin) and Alexander Dunst (University of Paderborn).
In cooperation with the University of Paderborn.


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