Eugene Thacker

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Eugene Thacker
EducationUniversity of Washington (BA)
Rutgers University (PhD)
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
Comparative literature
Media studies
Philosophy of religion
Main interests
Pessimism, nihilism, antihumanism, anti-foundationalism, horror fiction, horror film, mysticism, weird fiction
Notable ideas
Cosmic Pessimism, The Horror of Philosophy, "The World, Earth and Planet", Dark Media, Biomedia

Eugene Thacker is a philosopher, poet and author. He is Professor of Media Studies at The New School in New York City.[1] His writing is often associated with the philosophy of nihilism and pessimism.[2] Thacker's most recent books are the Horror of Philosophy series (including the book In the Dust of This Planet) and Infinite Resignation. 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.[3] 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."[4] 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."[5]

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"[6] 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.[7]

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."[8] 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."

In 2013 Thacker, along with Alexander Galloway and McKenzie Wark, published the book Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation. There Thacker writes about dark media or technologies that mediate between the natural and supernatural. In the opening of the book the authors ask "Does everything that exists, exist to me 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."[9] This approach has been referred to as the "New York School of Media Theory."[10]

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), Debug: Primary Techno Noir (edited by Kenji Siratori), Alt-X, and Black Ice Magazine.[11] 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."[12] With Ronald Sukenick and Mark Amerika, Thacker helped establish Alt-X Press, for which he edited the anthology Hard_Code.[13] Thacker has also collaborated with art, media, and music collectives.[14]

Thacker's earlier works adopt approaches from the philosophy of science & technology. Examples are his book Biomedia[15] and writings on bioinformatics, nanotechnology, biocomputing, complexity, CAS (complex adaptive systems), swarms and networks.[16] This work is also interested in the boundary between science and science fiction.[17] An example is Thacker's concept of "biomedia" which he defines as following: "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." He goes on to clarify, saying: "biomedia continuously make the dual demand that information materialize itself as gene or protein compounds. This point cannot be overstated: biomedia depend upon an understanding of biological as informational but not immaterial."[18]

Thacker distinguishes biomedia from traditional concepts of biotechnology, as seen in science fiction via cyborgs. With biomedia, he writes, "the emphasis is less on 'technology' as a tool, and more on the technical reconditioning of the 'biological.' It is this assumption that characterizes the concept of 'biomedia.'"[19] Thacker explicitly distinguishes this from mechanical prosthetics and sci-fi tropes of downloading human consciousness into virtual reality. He writes, "By contrast, what we find with biomedia is a constant, consistent, and methodical inquiry into the technical-philosophical question of 'what a body can do.'"[20] As an example of this, in his book The Global Genome, Thacker looks to recent developments in tissue engineering where readily apparent techno-mechanical apparatuses disappear altogether so that it appears as though technology is the natural body. Here, in Thacker's words, "Technology is thus invisible yet immanent."[21] In this same book, Thacker connects biomedia to a notion of bioart, which he sees as a form of post-media politics conceptualized by French philosopher Félix Guattari and the concept of biopolitics in the work of Michel Foucault. Thacker redefines bioart from the common definition of art utilizing biology as its medium to art that makes "politically aware, critical, and ethically conscious interventions" enabled by nonspecialized engagement with biotechnology."[22] He offers as examples Critical Art Ensemble, SubRosa, and the Australia-based art research lab Symbiotica.

Thacker is a regular contributor to The Japan Times Books section.[23] He has written a column for Mute Magazine called "Occultural Studies."[24] Thacker has also 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.[25] He is part of the editorial group of Schism Press, an underground philosophy and literary press.[26] He has written about religion,[27] art,[28] and music (on black metal, Japanese noise, spectral music, and Requiem Mass).[29]

In 2018, Thacker's new book, Infinite Resignation, a series of fragments and aphorisms on the nature of pessimism, was published by Repeater Books.[30] 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."[31]


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).[32]

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.[33] Both Thacker's book and the Radiolab podcast were covered by Glenn Beck on TheBlazeTV.[34] Thacker has commented on 'nihilism memes' in an interview for The Awl: "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."[35]

Eugene Thacker and his work In the Dust of This Planet is referenced by Youtube channel Wisecrack.[36]

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.[37] a re-imagining of the original Marvel Inhumans character Karnak.



  • Biomedia. University of Minnesota Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0816643530.
  • 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.
  • Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, co-authored with Alexander R. Galloway and McKenzie Wark. University of Chicago Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0226925226.
  • 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.

Edited Anthologies[edit]

Book Arts/Limited Editions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Eugene Thacker". The New School. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  2. ^ Thacker, Eugene (2018-11-08). "On the horrors of being human" (Interview). Interviewed by Meredith Graves.
  3. ^ 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).
  4. ^ Thacker, In The Dust Of This Planet - Horror of Philosophy vol. 1, p. 2.
  5. ^ Thacker, In The Dust Of This Planet - Horror of Philosophy vol. 1, p. 6.
  6. ^ Thacker, After Life, p. x. See After Life Archived 2010-11-08 at the Wayback Machine, talk and interview, Ctheory/PAC-TAC lecture series, November 2008.
  7. ^ Thacker, After Life, p. x.
  8. ^ Thacker, "Cosmic Pessimism", continent 2.2 (2012).
  9. ^ Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker, and McKenzie Wark (University of Chicago Press, 2013), p. 10.
  10. ^ Geert Lovnik, "Hermes on the Hudson: Notes on Media Theory after Snowden", e-flux #54 (2014).
  11. ^ See
  12. ^ From the back cover blurb, published by Schism Press.
  13. ^ An ebook version is at Alt-X Press.
  14. ^ 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 Archived 2011-09-27 at the Wayback Machine that includes Thacker's essay "Bataille/Body/Noise."
  15. ^ See What Is Biomedia?, Configurations 11.1/Project Muse (2003), and the entry "Biomedia" in Critical Terms for Media Studies, University of Chicago Press, 2010.
  16. ^ Networks, Swarms, Multitudes, part 1, part 2, Ctheory (2004), Biophilosophy for the 21st Century, Ctheory (6 September 2005).
  17. ^ See Biomedia. Also "The Science Fiction of Technoscience" in Leonardo 34.2 (2001); "SF, Technoscience, Net Art" in Art Journal 59 (2000).
  18. ^ Thacker, "Biomedia", in WJT Mitchell & Mark BN Hansen (editors), Critical Terms for Media Studies, University of Chicago Press 2010, p. 123.
  19. ^ Thacker, "What Is Biomedia?", p. 52
  20. ^ Thacker, "What Is Biomedia?", "Configurations," 11.1 (2003): 53]
  21. ^ Thacker, The Global Genome, MIT Press, 2005, p. 267.
  22. ^ Thacker, The Global Genome, p. 307.
  23. ^ See The Japan Times website for more.
  24. ^ Occultural Studies @ Mute Magazine.
  25. ^ Cabal & Other Annotations, published by Fiddleblack
  26. ^
  27. ^ Dark Nights of the Universe, reading at The Public School NYC/Recess Gallery, April 26–29, 2012 (with Daniel Coluciello Barber, Nicola Masciandaro, and Alexander R. Galloway), Divine Darkness, lecture at "Dark Materialisms", London Natural History Museum, 12 January 2011, "Wayless Abyss: Mysticism, Mediation, & Divine Nothingness", Postmedieval #3 (2012).
  28. ^ Black on Black, The Public Domain Review (2015)
  29. ^ Day of Wrath, "Glossator 6 (2012) - Black Metal": 89-120, Expanding Mind Interview 9/30/2010 Archived 2011-03-16 at the Wayback Machine (Erik Davis and Maja D'Aoust interview Nicola Masciandaro and Eugene Thacker on black metal), Pulse Demons Archived 2014-01-05 at the Wayback Machine, Culture Machine no.9 (2007)
  30. ^ "Infinite Resignation | Repeater Books | Repeater Books". Repeater Books. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  31. ^ Mims, Jay C. (2018-07-19). "Philosopher Eugene Thacker Sighs in the Face of Everything in 'Infinite Resignation'". Into the Void Magazine.
  32. ^ "Writer Nic Pizzolatto on Thomas Ligotti and the Weird Secrets of True Detective."
  33. ^ "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 Archived 2014-12-15 at the Wayback Machine.
  34. ^ "In the Dust of This Planet book discussed by Glenn Beck on The Blaze TV". YouTube. 2014-10-31.
  35. ^ "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.
  36. ^ "The Philosophy of Rick and Morty – Wisecrack Edition". 19 December 2015.
  37. ^ "The Flaw in Everything: Warren Ellis’ Karnak the Shatterer" also [ Archived 2018-01-21 at the Wayback Machine "Morning, Computer - Warren Ellis blog"
  38. ^

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