After Life

Patricia MacCormack, ‘After Life’, pp.177-187, in:

MacCormack, P. (Ed.), 2014. The animal catalyst: towards ahuman theory. Bloomsbury Academic, London; New York.


For oppressive machines, the ahuman aberrant is required to isomorphically raise the status of the majoritarian, and the future hurtling posthuman’s future is only as a cog in that operation of ascension. Ecosophical and ecominoritarian elements of ahuman theories seek to alter this monodirectional system.


Without being pessimistic, is it viable or even possible to ask if we can ever enter // into entirely posthuman, inhuman, ahuman becomings?


When the human becoming-imperceptible politic dissipates the human into collective molecular assemblages with environment and cosmos, when I becomes we, is it not still our task, and our multiplicities, and our assemblages because primarily our ecological and philosophical disasters we seek to rectify and our being (whatever that may be) we seek to undo and reform?

Extinction is activism in three ways. The first is imaginatively expressing and accounting for the life we live even though it was not chosen.

The second, more extreme form of activism, comes from the decision which acknowledges life is inevitable and beyond the control of that emergent life, but this life may control its finitude, through suicide.

Vitalistic suicide is not a cop out, nor is living necessarily a choice to be a certain kind of subject. Life continues after suicide through affect.

Coming from these elements, the third is accepting that choosing not to reproduce entails vigilance for immanent lives. It opposes hedonism which would privilege our lives, as the last generation, as free to do what we wish and decimate what is left, just as postmodernity does not replace the single subject with multiplicity as being and doing anything without purposeful acknowledgement of affectivity.


Guattari advocates the philosopher as futurist, and futurity as the jubilant purpose of rethinking subjectivity and relationality. It would be a mistake to understand the cessation of the human as a denial of futurity. The future is not discontinued as a result of human disappearance, it is the very definition of what an imperceptible, cosmic, immanent future can be because it is future without thinking in advance as a thinking human.

Programming and resolution are notoriously human compulsions. From a humanist perspective, they are viable as much for the power they produce as for the benefits they afford.

Perhaps a perversely literal interpretation of Deleuze and Guattari’s call to becoming-imperceptible is to define imperceptibility as absolute absence.


Ahuman theory deals explicitly with the death of identity, because the demand for identity, to be identified by the identity which one has been proscribed and which one must accept to register as an identity, is where lives emerge as the cells of signifying systems.

Dominant systems need repetition both to maintain their power and to make alterations which would disprove their claimed logic quietly without being perceived as rupturing their own operations. The bodies which populate The Animal Catalyst antagonize reproduction, and in their audacious celebratory existences they deny the phantasy of reproduction constituting life.


While explicators of Spinoza would operate under the consensus that will and appetite strive towards joy which is averse to death and which makes suicide unthinkable as irrational, I wish to adapt this idea another way.

Spinoza urges us to think the eternity of our lives while aware this is both fallacious and makes us irrational. However, as rationality in Spinoza is borne of self-preservation – the will to continue through which essence is found – knowing the impossible, the event which repudiates our existence, our rationality and our preservation while simultaneously refusing it by exchanging it for the concept of eternity without us, creates an intra-affective ethics, a molecular terrain of disagreement and conscious incommensurability which itself sustains us.

Life is this way understood as the infinite beginnings which teeter upon potentialization at each constellation of interaction and relation. If what we claim to know as ‘human’ life were sought to cease, this does not necessarily conform to what Spinoza defines as suicide or even death. The gradual cessation of human life on Earth and in the Universe is the beginning of the contemplation of the eternity of life affects, of the life of all ecosophical cosmic interaction.

If each entity aspires to greater perfection, thus greater joy, if human life was an element of the cosmos which facilitated lesser or greater perfection, we must ask to what extent the cessation of human life would increase joy? Of course this is an unanswerable question. But my point here is that contemplating the cessation of human occupation of Earth and space is the opposite of being against a meditation on life.


Ahuman theory consistently seeks the silencing of what is understood as human speech emergent through logic, power and signification. Human speech makes the world according to the human, tells the world what it is and speaks for the world, that is, to other humans and to the gods of human speech – religion, science, capital, the family (of man). Silencing human speech opens a harmonious cacophony of polyvocalities imperceptible to human understanding, just as human speech has the detrimental effect of silencing unheard, unthought expression.

Human life has demarcated itself as an object, demarcated the world into objects and by this operation, facilitates, vindicates and perpetuates its own object-ness. Its object-ness is its subjectivity, its subjectivity the impossibility for other life to be.

Nature is the jubilant infinite beyond what we can perceive or encounter, and excised though we attempt to be from it, we are a result of it, subjects to a sovereign with no intent, design or flexing of might. Nature is not eco-privileging. It is every connectivity potential in the world, the world and cosmos themselves, and each life in its most unassuming and barest living.


What could be more simple, in order to allow the world to exist, then, than leaving it be? ‘Issues’, ‘welfare’ and ‘nature’ continue to dismember the world into pieces which are consumable but which fail to sufficiently (and efficiently) understand the connectivity that is all the world and in which human connections are few but their encroachments and effects are innumerable both immanently and continuously. Abolitionist ahuman ethics are only truly possible if we are not here.


Ethically, this new life lived in the worlds to which our finitude introduces us makes us live differently, life configured in wondrous unthought of ways which benefit nature through our becoming more hospitable, less parasitic, more creative and productive in our connections and the opportunities of expressivity we encounter from a world territorialized constantly anew.

Through managing what we have done to the earth while we live, in an attempt to further its freedom for expressivity, not with guilt but joy, allows us accountability with immanence and futurity rather than a constant address to the past.

Resemblance without homogenization, land without sovereign and love without structuring relation or condition are subtle, gracious interactions with the earth, earths, ordinary emergences of and from the earth.


What can we do now in and for the world? It must be a secret form of activism because it operates via tactics of unknowability, unpredictability and actions that take aim without a project, though its connectivities and hoped-for affects are contemplative, thoughtful and openings created beneficial. Secret humans are vitalistic in our repudiation of imperceptibility as absence. Ethical imperceptibility limits diminishment of the expressivity of the earth – we live a quiet undetectable life – and produces joyous openings for the earth’s expressivity – a secret making things happen.

In attempts to be hosts, we are actually being incidentally gifted the role of parasite towards joyous affects – our expressivity is challenged and extended while we launch upon the creation and habitation of other worlds within, and thus our pleasures are taken from these worlds and their affects independent of our detrimental diminishing force.


To diminish the other’s capacity to multiply and extend its capacities is, in Spinoza, hate.

But further, ahuman ethics are based on the premise that all conception is hateful ethics: in a deliberate truncated reading of Spinoza’s claim ahuman theory acknowledges that ‘he who conceives the object destroys the object’, imposing a claim upon a body conditional on monodirectional exertions of perception as conception, limiting expressivity without limit.

Further to this, Spinoza says ‘the world would be much happier if men were as fully able to keep silence as they are to speak’ (1957: 30 original emphasis).

Expressing entities (bodies, forces, connective planes) in inextricable proximity involves a threefold ethical consideration – the critique of the detrimental effect a claim to knowledge of another body perpetrates; address as creative expressivity opening the capacity for the other to express; acknowledgement and celebration of the difficult new a-system of bio-relations as an ongoing, irresolvable but ethical for being so, interactive, mediative project of desire.


The cessation of reproduction may seem unthinkable, even mad. But life itself cannot exist in the perpetuation of human subjectivity – for formerly human life nor for any other.

Many arguments may be made for the idiocy of suggesting extinction, both practical and moral, and many suggestions made for how we can continue sustainably. These questions return indeterminably all worlds to us, to our thought, our practices, our legislations and ultimately suggesting the world belongs to us, whether as desecrators or custodians.

If the question of human extinction seems ridiculous, the very least we can offer as an act of love is an ethical address to the purpose of why we see its need to continue.