Reading for Cosmotechnics: Dissipation, Enflaming and the Contemporary

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2021

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Abstract

This thesis is a response to theorist Yuk Hui’s impassioned call for more thinkers to take up the crucial task of developing pluralist “cosmotechnics” and technodiversity, that is to say, to construct and attend to the multiplicity of ways in which technical relationships to the cosmos have been and are being staked out across different cultures to make possible deviations from “modern technology’s” homogeneous rendition of such a relationship as “enframing,” a la Heidegger. Unlike Hui who predominantly draws on classical and modern philosophical texts, however, I turn to contemporary Chinese- language novels – in particular, Lou Yi-chin’s Kuang chaoren (2018) and Yan Lianke’s Rixi (2015) – to (i) theorize alter-cosmotechnics beyond the Chinese Confucian and Daoist variants developed by Hui in The Question Concerning Technology in China, and (ii) extend Yuk Hui’s concept cosmotechnics more firmly into issues of aesthetics, literature and writing. On the former front, my efforts lead me to develop and describe a set of cosmotechnics that is centered around what I call “dissipation” and “enflaming”; insofar as such cosmotechnics technic-izes the cosmos neither in terms of the poetic unconcealment of world and man (Heidegger’s Greek poiesis) nor in terms of the unification or striving for harmony between cosmic and moral order (Hui’s Chinese Confucian/Daoist cosmotechnics) but in its insistence of things’ exhaustibility and already- being-dead, it forces us, I argue, to broach the problem of modern technology in a radically different way, i.e., not as a loss of pre-modern magic, but as the delayed realization of our pre-modern deaths. On the latter front, I explore the different ways in which aesthetics – in its designation of a sensuous mode that is adjacent to philosophy’s primary mode that is thinking, can be brought to bear on cosmotechnics-as-project; aesthetics, for instance, can allow for the demarcating-through-reading of certain premodern literary cultures as grounds for alter-ontologies of cosmotechnics (as in Kuang chaoren), or raise the possibility of a non-inscriptive mode of writing that is not pre-modern but precisely “contemporary” (as in Rixi).

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Wee, Jing Long (2021). Reading for Cosmotechnics: Dissipation, Enflaming and the Contemporary. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23186.

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