Eugene Thacker

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Eugene Thacker
Era Contemporary Philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Continental Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Media Studies, Philosophy of Religion
Main interests
Pessimism, Nihilism, Antihumanism, horror fiction, horror film, mysticism, weird fiction
Notable ideas
Cosmic Pessimism, The Philosophy of Horror, "The World,Earth and Planet"

Eugene Thacker is an author and Professor at The New School in New York City. His writing is often associated with the philosophy of nihilism and pessimism. Thacker’s most recent books are the Horror of Philosophy series (including the book In The Dust Of This Planet) and Cosmic Pessimism. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Washington, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University.


Thacker's most widely read book is In The Dust Of This Planet, part of his Horror of Philosophy trilogy. 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 apophatic ("darkness") mysticism traditions. 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."[1] Thacker distinguishes the "world-for-us" (the human-centric view of the world), and the "world-in-itself" (the world as it exists in essence), 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."[2]

Thacker's major philosophical work is After Life. 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"[3] Thacker traces this theme from Aristotle, to Scholasticism and mysticism/negative theology, to Spinoza and Kant, showing how this three-fold displacement is also alive in philosophy today (life as time in process philosophy and Deleuzianism, life as form in biopolitical thought, life as spirit in post-secular philosophies of religion). Ultimately Thacker argues for a skepticism regarding "life": "Life is not only a problem of philosophy, but a problem for philosophy.[4]

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

Thacker's poetry and fiction has appeared in anthologies such as Degenerative Prose (published by Black Ice/FC2), Diagram: Selections from the Magazine (edited by Ander Monson), and Debug: Primary Techno Noir (edited by Kenji Siratori). Thacker has produced book arts projects, 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."[6] With Ronald Sukenick and Mark Amerika, Thacker helped establish Alt-X Press, for which he edited the anthology Hard_Code.[7] Thacker has also collaborated with art, media, and music collectives.[8]

Thacker has written the Forewords to the English editions of the works of E.M. Cioran, published by Arcade Press, as well as the Preface and Annotations to Clive Barker's novella Cabal, published by Fiddleblack Press.[9]

Thacker is a regular contributor to The Japan Times Books section, and he has written a column for Mute Magazine called "Occultural Studies."

Thacker's earlier works adopt approaches from the philosophy of science & technology, such as his book Biomedia and writings on bioinformatics, nanotechnology, biocomputing, complexity, CAS (complex adaptive systems), swarms and networks.[10] This work is also interested in the boundary between science and science fiction.[11]

Influence in media[edit]

In an interview with True Detective creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto, Thacker's book In The Dust of This Planet is cited 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).[12]

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.[13] Both Thacker's book and the Radiolab podcast were covered by Glenn Beck on TheBlazeTV.[14] Thacker has commented on 'nihilism memes' in an interview for The Awl.[15]


  • Into the Influx Incision (Mercury Arts Press, 1994)
  • Editor, Hard Code: Narrating the Network Society (Alt-X Press, 2001)
  • Biomedia (University of Minnesota Press, 2004)
  • Creative Biotechnology: A User's Manual, with Natalie Jeremijenko and Heath Bunting (Locus+, 2004)
  • The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture (MIT Press, 2005)
  • The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, co-authored with Alexander R. Galloway (University of Minnesota Press, 2007)
  • After Life (University of Chicago Press, 2010)
  • In The Dust Of This Planet - Horror of Philosophy, vol. 1 (Zero Books, 2011)
  • Editor with Ed Keller & Nicola Masciandaro, Leper Creativity: The Cyclonopedia Symposium (Punctum Books, 2012)
  • Dark Nights of the Universe (with Daniel Colucciello Barber, Nicola Masciandaro, Alexander R. Galloway and François Laruelle) ([NAME] Publications, 2013)
  • Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, with Alexander R. Galloway and McKenzie Wark (University of Chicago Press, 2013)
  • And They Were Two In One And One In Two, co-edited with Nicola Masciandaro (Schism Press, 2014)
  • An Ideal for Living: Anti-Novel (Gobbet Press, 2014 [2006])
  • Starry Speculative Corpse (Horror of Philosophy Vol. 2) (Zero Books, 2015)
  • Tentacles Longer Than Night (Horror of Philosophy Vol. 3) (Zero Books, 2015)
  • Cosmic Pessimism (Univocal Books, 2015)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thacker, In The Dust Of This Planet - Horror of Philosophy vol. 1, p. 2.
  2. ^ Thacker, In The Dust Of This Planet - Horror of Philosophy vol. 1, p. 6.
  3. ^ Thacker, After Life, p. x.
  4. ^ Thacker, After Life, p. x.
  5. ^ Thacker, "Cosmic Pessimism", continent 2.2 (2012).
  6. ^ From the back cover blurb, Gobbet Press re-issue, 2014.
  7. ^ An electronic version of the book is available at the Alt-X Press website.
  8. ^ These include Fakeshop, which has presented work at Ars Electronica and the 2000 Whitney Biennial, Biotech Hobbyist, and Merzbow. Thacker produced a CD of noise music released by Extreme Records (Sketches for Biotech Research, XCD-046), as well as a collaborative CD with Merzbow, part of the Merzbow Box Set released in 2000. The Box Set also includes a book titled Merzbook that includes Thacker's essay "Bataille/Body/Noise."
  9. ^ Cabal & Other Annotations, published by Fiddleblack
  10. ^ See the entry "Biomedia" in Critical Terms for Media Studies, University of Chicago Press, 2010.
  11. ^ See Biomedia. Also "The Science Fiction of Technoscience" in Leonardo 34.2 (2001); "SF, Technoscience, Net Art" in Art Journal 59 (2000).
  12. ^ "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of True Detective."
  13. ^ "Radiolab - In The Dust Of This Planet", original broadcast on Monday September 8, 2014. The story was also covered by NPR's On The Media in their show On The Media - Nihilism.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "There's always death to look forward to: Nihilist Arby's and the cheerful nihilism of the Internet", by Angela Brussel, The Awl, August 2nd, 2017.

External links[edit]