The Void of Thought and the Ambivalence of History: Chaadaev, Bakunin, and Fedorov

In Panayiota Vassilopoulou & Daniel Whistler (eds.), Thought: A Philosophical History. New York City, New York, USA: pp. 293-306 (2021)
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Abstract
This paper cuts across three nineteenth-century Russian thinkers—Pyotr Chaadaev, Mikhail Bakunin and Nikolai Fedorov—to reconstruct a speculative trajectory that seeks to think an ungrounding and delegitimation of the (Christian-modern) world and its logics of violence, domination, and exclusion. In Chaadaev, Russia becomes a territory of nothingness—an absolute exception from history, tradition, and memory, without attachment or relation to world history. Ultimately, Chaadaev affirms this atopic void in its immanence, as capable of creating immanently from itself a common future. Bakunin is antagonistic to political theology as an apparatus of transcendence spanning across nature and history, cannibalism and patriotism, abstraction and religious transcendence. Against these amalgams, and against Schmitt’s naturalist reading of Bakunin, we detect in him the idea of socialism or anarchism as what has never taken place in nature or history, and the image of an unnatural humanity affirmed as the common task linking an absolute futurity with a revolutionary nowness. Against the violence of nature and history in which the present is sacrificed, and death is justified, for future life, Fedorov (the founder of Russian Cosmism) seeks to think the apocalyptic common task of immanent resurrection—and the void as the cosmic void, the expanse of the universe to be inhabited in-common. For him, thought must proceed from death and the ashes (of history and the earth) as what we have in common. The resulting trajectory is ambivalent, caught between an ungrounding of modernity and world-history, and providential or theodical modes of its justification.
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