Eugene Thacker

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Eugene Thacker
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
InstitutionsThe New School
Main interests
Notable ideas
  • Cosmic Pessimism
  • The Horror of Philosophy
  • World, Earth and Planet
  • Dark Media
  • Biomedia

Eugene Thacker is an American author. He is Professor of Media Studies at The New School in New York City.[1] Previously he was a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication.[2] His writing is associated with the philosophy of nihilism and pessimism. Thacker's books include In the Dust of This Planet (part of his Horror of Philosophy trilogy) and Infinite Resignation. Many of his media contributions are developments of Science and Technology Studies. He has produced theory around how media informs and augments biological processes across several publications.

Early life and education[edit]

Thacker was born and grew up in the Pacific Northwest.[3] He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Washington, and a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University.[citation needed]


Nihilism, pessimism, and speculative realism[edit]

Thacker's work has been associated with philosophical nihilism and pessimism, as well as to contemporary philosophies of speculative realism and collapsology.[4] His short book Cosmic Pessimism defines pessimism as "the philosophical form of disenchantment." As Thacker states: "Pessimism is the night-side of thought, a melodrama of the futility of the brain, a poetry written in the graveyard of philosophy."[5]

In 2018, Thacker's new book, Infinite Resignation was published by Repeater Books. Infinite Resignation consists of fragments and aphorisms on the nature of pessimism, mixing the personal and philosophical. Thacker engages with writers like Thomas Bernhard, E.M. Cioran, Osamu Dazai, Søren Kierkegaard, Clarice Lispector, Giacomo Leopardi, Fernando Pessoa, and Schopenhauer. The New York Times noted "Thacker has thrown a party for all of these eloquent cranks in Infinite Resignation, and he is an excellent host...This book provides a metric ton of misery and a lot of company."[6] One reviewer writes of the book: "Infinite Resignation belongs on the shelf next to the likes of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer...Like all great works of philosophy, this book will force readers to question their long-held beliefs in the way the world works and the way the world ought to work...Thacker's voice is quiet, a desperate whisper into the void that is both haunting and heartbreaking."[7]

Thacker's major philosophical work is After Life, published by the University of Chicago Press. In it, Thacker argues that the ontology of life operates by way of a split between "Life" and "the living," making possible a "metaphysical displacement" in which life is thought via another metaphysical term, such as time, form, or spirit: "Every ontology of life thinks of life in terms of something-other-than-life...that something-other-than-life is most often a metaphysical concept, such as time and temporality, form and causality, or spirit and immanence"[8] Thacker traces this theme in Aristotle, Dionysius the Areopagite, John Scottus Eriugena, negative theology, Immanuel Kant, and Georges Bataille, showing how this three-fold displacement is also alive in philosophy today.[9] After Life also includes comparisons with Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese philosophy.

Thacker's follow-up essay "Darklife: Negation, Nothingness, and the Will-to-Life in Schopenhauer" discusses the ontology of life in terms of negation, eliminativism, and "the inverse relationship between logic and life."[10] Specifically, Thacker argues that Schopenhauer's philosophy posits a "dark life" in opposition to the "ontology of generosity" of German Idealist thinkers such as Hegel and Schelling. Thacker has also written in a similar vein on the role of negation and "nothingness" in the work of mystical philosopher Meister Eckhart.[11] Ultimately Thacker argues for a skepticism regarding "life": "Life is not only a problem of philosophy, but a problem for philosophy.[12]

Horror and philosophy[edit]

Thacker's most widely read book is In the Dust of This Planet, part of his Horror of Philosophy trilogy.[13] In it, Thacker explores the idea of the "unthinkable world" as represented in the horror fiction genre, in philosophies of pessimism and nihilism, and in the philosophies of apophatic ("darkness") mysticism.[14] In the first volume, In the Dust of This Planet, Thacker calls the horror of philosophy "the isolation of those moments in which philosophy reveals its own limitations and constraints, moments in which thinking enigmatically confronts the horizon of its own possibility."[15] Thacker distinguishes the "world-for-us" (the human-centric view of the world), and the "world-in-itself" (the world as it exists objectively), from what he calls the "world-without-us": "the world-without-us lies somewhere in between, in a nebulous zone that is at once impersonal and horrific."[16] In this and the other volumes of the trilogy Thacker writes about a wide range of work: H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Edgar Allan Poe, Dante's Inferno, Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautréamont, the Faust myth, manga artist Junji Ito, contemporary horror authors Thomas Ligotti and Caitlín Kiernan, K-horror film, and the philosophy of Schopenhauer, Rudolph Otto, Medieval mysticism (Meister Eckhart, Angela of Foligno, John of the Cross), occult philosophy, and the philosophy of the Kyoto School.

Thacker's writing on philosophy and horror extends to what he calls dark media, or technologies that mediate between the natural and supernatural, and point to the limit of human perception and knowledge.[17] Similarly, Thacker has written a series of essays on "necrology", defined as the decay or disintegration of the body politic.[18] Thacker discusses plague, demonic possession, and the living dead, drawing upon the history of medicine, biopolitics, political theology, and the horror genre.[19]

Philosophy, science, and technology[edit]

Thacker's earlier works adopt approaches from the philosophies of science and technology, and examine the relation between science and science fiction.[20] Examples are his book Biomedia,[21] and his writings on bioinformatics, nanotechnology, biocomputing, complex adaptive systems, swarm intelligence, and network theory.[22] Thacker's concept of biomedia is defined as follows: "Biomedia entail the informatic recontextualization of biological components and processes, for ends that may be medical or nonmedical...and with effects that are as much cultural, social, and political as they are scientific." Thacker clarifies: "biomedia continuously make the dual demand that information materialize itself...biomedia depend upon an understanding of biological as informational but not immaterial."[23] In his book The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture, Thacker looks to developments in tissue engineering where techno-mechanical apparatuses disappear altogether so that it appears as though technology is the natural body. In Thacker's words, "biotechnology is thus invisible yet immanent."[24]

In 2013 Thacker, along with Alexander Galloway and McKenzie Wark, published the co-authored book Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation. In the opening of the book the authors ask "Does everything that exists, exist to be presented and represented, to be mediated and remediated, to be communicated and translated? There are mediative situations in which heresy, exile, or banishment carry the day, not repetition, communion, or integration. There are certain kinds of messages that state 'there will be no more messages'. Hence for every communication there is a correlative excommunication."[25] This approach has been referred to as the "New York School of Media Theory."[26]

Other writings[edit]

Thacker's poetry and fiction has appeared in various literary anthologies and magazines. Thacker has produced book arts projects,[27] and an anti-novel titled An Ideal for Living, of which American poet and conceptual writer Kenneth Goldsmith has said: "this an important book...these pages take cues from Burroughs and Gibson, while at the same time presciently pointing to the web-based path writing would take over the next decade."[28] In the 1990s, Thacker, along with Ronald Sukenick and Mark Amerika, established Alt-X Press, for which he edited the anthology of experimental writing Hard_Code.

Thacker is a contributor to The Japan Times Books section, where he has written about the work of Junji Ito, Osamu Dazai, Haruo Sato, Keiji Nishitani, Izumi Kyōka, Edogawa Rampo, and Zen death poetry. He wrote a column for London-based Mute Magazine called "Occultural Studies," writing about such topics as the Surrealist poet Robert Desnos, Schopenhauer's philosophy, the horror writing of Thomas Ligotti, and the music of And Also The Trees. He has also written Forewords to the English editions of the works of E. M. Cioran, published by Arcade Press. He has contributed to limited editions books produced by Zagava Press, including his essay on the life and writings of J.-K. Huysmans. Thacker has also participated in the series of "black metal theory" symposia and publications.

Other activities[edit]

Thacker has also collaborated with artists and musicians. These include the art collective Fakeshop, which presented art & installation at Ars Electronica,[29] ACM SIGGRAPH,[30] and the Whitney Biennial.[31] He has also collaborated with Biotech Hobbyist, and co-authored an art book Creative Biotechnology: A User's Manual.[32] In 1998 Thacker produced a CD of noise music released by Extreme Records and a split CD with Merzbow/Masami Akita, part of the Extreme Records Merzbow Box Set released in 2000.[33]


In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Nic Pizzolatto, creator and writer of True Detective, cites Thacker's In the Dust of This Planet as an influence on the TV series, particularly the worldview of lead character Rust Cohle, along with several other books: Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound, Thomas Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Jim Crawford's Confessions of an Antinatalist, and David Benatar's Better Never to Have Been.[34]

In September 2014 the WNYC's Radiolab ran a show entitled "In the Dust of This Planet." The program traced the appropriation of Thacker's book of the same name in contemporary art, fashion, music video, and popular culture.[35] Both Thacker's book and the Radiolab podcast were covered by Glenn Beck on TheBlazeTV.[36] Thacker has commented on 'nihilism memes' in an interview: "Is it any accident that at a time when we have become acutely aware of the challenges concerning global climate change, we have also created this bubble of social media? I find social media and media culture generally to be a vapid, desperate, self-aggrandizing circus of species-specific solipsism — ironically, the stupidity of our species might be its only legacy."[37]

Thacker and his book In the Dust of This Planet are referenced by YouTube channel Wisecrack.[38]

Comic book author Warren Ellis cites as an influence the nihilist philosophies of Thacker and Peter Sjöstedt-H for his 2017 series Karnak: The Flaw in All Things, a re-imagining of the original Marvel Inhumans character Karnak.[39]

The writing of Thacker and Thomas Ligotti is cited as an influence on the 2021 album The Nightmare of Being by the Gothenburg melodic death metal band At The Gates; Thacker also provided lyrics for the song "Cosmic Pessimism".[40]


  • Hard Code: Narrating the Network Society. Edited by Eugene Thacker. Alt-X Press, 2002. ISBN 978-1931560047.
  • Biomedia. University of Minnesota Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0816643530.
  • Creative Biotechnology: A User's Manual, co-authored with Natalie Jeremijenko and Heath Bunting. Locus+, 2004. ISBN 978-1899377220.
  • The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture. MIT Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0262701167.
  • The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, co-authored with Alexander R. Galloway. University of Minnesota Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0816650446.
  • After Life. University of Chicago Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0226793726.
  • In the Dust of This Planet (Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1). Zero Books, 2011. ISBN 978-1846946769.
  • Leper Creativity: The Cyclonopedia Symposium, co-edited with Ed Keller and Nicola Masciandaro. Punctum Books, 2012. ISBN 978-0615600468.
  • Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, co-authored with Alexander R. Galloway and McKenzie Wark. University of Chicago Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0226925226.
  • Dark Nights of the Universe, co-authored with Daniel Colucciello Barber, Nicola Masciandaro, Alexander R. Galloway and François Laruelle. [NAME] Publications, 2013. ISBN 978-0984056675.
  • And They Were Two in One and One in Two, co-edited with Nicola Masciandaro. Schism Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1494701239.
  • Starry Speculative Corpse (Horror of Philosophy Vol. 2). Zero Books, 2015. ISBN 978-1782798910.
  • Tentacles Longer Than Night (Horror of Philosophy Vol. 3). Zero Books, 2015. ISBN 978-1782798897.
  • Cosmic Pessimism, with drawings by Keith Tilford. Univocal Publishing, 2015. ISBN 978-1937561475.
  • Infinite Resignation. Repeater Books, 2018. ISBN 978-1912248193.
  • An Ideal for Living: An Anti-Novel (20th Anniversary Edition). Schism Press, 2020. ISBN 979-8682903832.
  • Arthur Schopenhauer, On The Suffering Of The World. Edited with an Introduction by Eugene Thacker. Repeater Books, 2020. ISBN 978-1913462031.
  • The Repeater Book of the Occult, co-edited with Tariq Goddard. Repeater Books, 2021. ISBN 978-1913462079.
  • Songs for Sad Poets, Siavash Amini & Eugene Thacker, Hallow Ground Records, 2022[41]
  • Sad Planets. Co-authored with Dominic Pettman. Polity, forthcoming 2024.


  1. ^ "Eugene Thacker". The New School for Social Research. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  2. ^ WIRED Staff. "Tweaking Genes in the Basement". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2024-02-17.
  3. ^ "About". Eugene Thacker. Retrieved 2022-09-17.
  4. ^ The Age of Catastrophe, (October 2020) and the journal Collapse (Urbanomic Publications).
  5. ^ Cosmic Pessimism (Univocal Publishing, 2014), p.3.
  6. ^ "Finding Alarm and Consolation About the Apocalypse". New York Times. 2018-08-01.
  7. ^ "Philosopher Eugene Thacker Sighs in the Face of Everything in 'Infinite Resignation'". Into the Void Magazine. 2018-07-19.
  8. ^ Thacker, After Life (University of Chicago Press, 2010), p. x.
  9. ^ See the essay After Life: De anima and Unhuman Politics Radical Philosophy vol. 155 (2009).
  10. ^ "Darklife: Negation, Nothingness, and the Will-to-Life in Schopenhauer," Parrhesia no. 12 (2011), p. 3.
  11. ^ "Wayless Abyss: Mysticism, Mediation, & Divine Nothingness", Postmedieval #3 (2012).
  12. ^ Thacker, After Life, p. x.
  13. ^ In The Dust Of This Planet has been translated into several languages, including Spanish (Materia Oscura, 2015), Italian (Nero Editions 2018), Russian (Hyle Press, 2017), and German (Mathes & Seitz, 2019).
  14. ^ See "Divine Darkness", Thacker's lecture at London Natural History Museum (12 January 2011).
  15. ^ In The Dust Of This Planet, p. 2.
  16. ^ In The Dust Of This Planet, p. 6.
  17. ^ Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, co-authored with Alexander Galloway and McKenzie Wark (University of Chicago Press, 2013), pp. 77-149.
  18. ^ Tentacles Longer Than Night - Horror of Philosophy, vol. 3 (Zero Books, 2015), pp. 21ff.
  19. ^ See also “Nekros; or, the Poetics of Biopolitics” in Zombie Theory: A Reader (University of Minnesota Press, 2017); “Necrologies: The Death of the Body Politic” in Beyond Biopolitics (Duke University Press, 2011).
  20. ^ See the essays "Data Made Flesh: Biotechnology and the Discourse of the Posthuman," Cultural Critique no. 53 (2003), "Biohorror/Biotech," Paradoxa no. 17 (2002).
  21. ^ See the entry "Biomedia" in Critical Terms for Media Studies, eds. W.J.T. Mitchell & Mark Hansen (University of Chicago Press, 2010).
  22. ^ "Networks, Swarms, Multitudes" Part 1, Part 2, Ctheory (2004), "Biophilosophy for the 21st Century", Ctheory (2005).
  23. ^ Thacker, "Biomedia", in Critical Terms for Media Studies, p. 123.
  24. ^ Thacker, The Global Genome (MIT Press, 2005), p. 267.
  25. ^ Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, p. 10.
  26. ^ Geert Lovnik, "Hermes on the Hudson: Notes on Media Theory after Snowden", e-flux #54 (2014).
  27. ^ Eugene Thacker, Into the Influx Incision: Literary Works, book design by Marie Thacker (Mercury Arts Press, 1994, ASIN B0006R1TPM).
  28. ^ From the back cover blurb, published by Schism Press.
  29. ^ Ars Electronica '99 Archived 2017-11-16 at the Wayback Machine festival.
  30. ^ SIGGRAPH 2000 Art Gallery
  31. ^ Whitney Biennial 2000
  32. ^ Biotech Hobbyist edition, Locus+
  33. ^ Merzbox (XLTD-003).
  34. ^ "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of True Detective."
  35. ^ "Radiolab - In The Dust Of This Planet", original broadcast Monday September 8, 2014. The story was also covered by NPR's On The Media.
  36. ^ "In the Dust of This Planet book discussed by Glenn Beck on The Blaze TV". YouTube. 2014-10-31.
  37. ^ "There's always death to look forward to: Nihilist Arby's and the cheerful nihilism of the Internet", The Awl, August 2, 2017.
  38. ^ "The Philosophy of Rick and Morty – Wisecrack Edition". 19 December 2015.
  39. ^ "The Flaw in Everything: Warren Ellis’ Karnak the Shatterer""
  40. ^ "At the Gates: The Nightmare Of Being". 8 July 2021. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
  41. ^ "SIAVASH AMINI & EUGENE THACKER - Songs for Sad Poets, by Siavash Amini & Eugene Thacker". Hallow Ground. Retrieved 2022-12-09.

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