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Primitive Accumulation

Primitive Accumulation

By James Simpkin
Cognitive Dissonance is Good!
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British Romanticism and Negative Capability with Timothy Wilcox

Primitive Accumulation

British Romanticism and Negative Capability with Timothy Wilcox
Lovely to have Timothy on the show. Quite fittingly, there was a really nice narrative thread running through our chat linking British Romanticism, cognitive dissonance and negative capability, favourite books, the impact of the internet on narrative in works of fiction, and Timothy's upcoming literature study course built around the theme of the sea. I had never heard of the concept of negative capability before and so I was fascinated to learn about it. Likewise, I also enjoyed learning about British Romanticism, even though I'm English I didn't know that much about the movement.     Timothy Wilcox has a Ph.D. in English from Stony Brook University, where he taught literature for five years. He studies British Romanticism, digital literature, and imagination.   Timothy's new course 'Literature at Sea: A Brief History of Existence' is available here. Registration closes on 9 November 2020 in advance of the first reading and discussion on 14th November: Timothy's Twitter: Timothy's Youtube: Timothy's webpage:  Get Primitive! If you'd like to join my mailing list to receive Primitive Accumulation content updates please fill out this form:
October 27, 2020
Novacene for the Soul. A review of James Lovelock’s Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence
A quick little audio chapter for you all. A recording of an article I wrote some months ago. You can check the written article out on
May 11, 2020
IQ and Imposter Syndrome with Nick White
Cool to have Nick White with me on today's podcast. Nick is a genetic engineer with an interest, amongst many things, in nootropics. I'm an average guy and I often question my right and ability to study at PhD level, and so with Nick's interest in brain science I wanted to discuss the idea of IQ with him. First up we discussed and critiqued the idea of IQ, before touching on techniques for raising one's self-esteem when experiencing imposter syndrome. We then segued into a more general discussion and about potential gene therapy developments in cancer care, Chinese CRISPR babies, and the legacy of the legendary self-proclaimed "dumbass genius", Rick Rosner. Ultimately, Nick and I concluded that what counts in a person is character and heart, not how smart they are. Hope you enjoy the show. Nicholas White is a genetic engineer at Ginkgo Bioworks and the founder of Flux Odyssey. At 18 he was diagnosed with ADD and cyclothymia, a form of bipolar disorder, and told he’d never be able to graduate college without taking medication like Ritalin and Lithium. Despite dropping out of college twice (while taking those fancy medications the psychiatrists were so fond of), he eventually graduated with a BS in Chemistry and a minor in Neuroscience without taking prescription stimulants. On the side, he co-founded the Fencing Club of Asheville, completed undergraduate research on the signaling protein Gα13 and its role in cancer, and co-founded UNCA’s first iGEM team to compete in a genetic engineering competition. Nick discovered how to solve his own health complications with supplements, nootropics and natural products. He now works as a genetic engineer at a synthetic biology company on the cutting edge of science and has 4+ years experience as a molecular biologist. One of his current projects at work is helping with the strain engineering and process development of a covid19 RNA vaccine, a collaboration between Ginkgo Bioworks and Moderna Therapeutics. Nick's Twitter account Nick's podcast Nick's nootropics company
May 2, 2020
Morals and Markets with David Gornoski
I was delighted to have had David Gornoski with me for this episode of Primitive Accumulation, particularly as David was my first guest whom I did not know beforehand. I just emailed David out of the blue and he said yes. David was also very generous with his time, talking with me for nearly two hours. As a libertarian Christian, David draws on his Christian faith to advocate for non-violent solutions to social problems. For David, this means that just as Jesus did not use violence to convince people of the correct moral course of action, so too, modern society and political institutions should not resort to coercion to address social problems, no matter how worthy such courses of action might be. David is very much in favour of collective efforts to address inequality and other social issues, it's just that he believes they should be addressed through the actions of free individuals coming together themselves, rather than through the state apparatus, which he believes to be coercive. To this end, David is also very passionate about the abolition of prison sentences for victimless crimes. David's worldview is also underpinned by his reading of French Philosopher Rene Girard's concept of Mimesis, which is where society bonds itself together by casting out a scapegoat. David takes Girard's mimesis and argues that the modern state is also a manifestation of this scapegoating tendency in human society. Drawing on Girard, with the coming of Christ, David argues, this cycle of scapegoating can end, and true respect for the individual can begin. In general, David favours solutions to social problems developed by the plucky individual and sees states and giant corporations as crowding these opportunities out. As a democratic socialist, I tend to believe that redistributive progressive taxation coupled with large-scale state-sponsored projects are an important tool for reducing poverty and maximising opportunity in society. I also went to a Christian primary school and the two main messages I take from Christianity are a concern for the disadvantaged and the importance of forgiveness. I was therefore intrigued to learn about how David articulated his Christian concern for the disadvantaged outside of states and corporations. David and I had a very cordial chat and it was interesting to learn more about his worldview. David Gornoski is an entrepreneur, speaker, and writer. He is also the founder of a project called A Neighbor's Choice which seeks to introduce Jesus’ culture of nonviolence to both Christians and the broader public. A Neighbor's Choice is also the name of his weekly show on state violence and alternative solutions to it.  David's website, A Neighbor's Choice  David's YouTube channel  David's podcast
May 2, 2020
Death and The Subject with Johannes Niederhauser
It’s great to have back with me Johannes Neiderhauser, PhD. In yet another engaging and eclectic discussion, Johannes and I ranged over a wide but interconnected landscape of ideas including Dasein and the tragic death of the very young, the necessity of Amor Fati in the face of a world by turns joyous and painful, the pitfalls of happy-go-lucky nihilism, before finally turning to an examination of whether the subject has been eliminated or amplified in drone warfare. Johannes is a philosopher, currently teaching at Birkbeck College, he will soon publish his first book on Heidegger’s phenomenology of death. Johannes has also made recent forays into online education through his collaborative course with Justin Murphy on the subject of Deleuze Vs Heidegger; a thought-provoking course which very much felt like Johnny Cash jamming with the Sex Pistols. In the last few weeks, Johannes has also launched his own solo course on Idleness with Dignity, surely to be followed by many more to come. As well as being the impresario of the Dead Philosophers Club, Johannes is also the founder of the Halkyon Thinkers Guild, ‘a gathering of thinkers, artists, writers, forecasters, and sense-makers.’ Johannes has been on fire recently with a plethora of fascinating YouTube videos on the challenges of our age. Please check out his fascinating lectures and interviews at Classical Philosophy on Youtube, Instagram and Patreon. Links can be found below. Classical Philosophy on YouTube: Classical Philosophy on Instagram: Classical Philosophy Patreon: Halkyon, The Thinkers Guild Patreon:
April 12, 2020
Visions of Utopia with Robin Amos
This time around, it was great to have with me Robin Amos to discuss the idea of Utopia. I’d met Robin through the forum and was intrigued to learn more about his conceptualisation of the future as an idea in itself. To begin, I asked Robin what I hope going forward will become “the Primitive Accumulation question”, which is: which two thoughts do you hold that contradict themselves the most? This kicked off an interesting discussion of the tension between liberty and security. We then moved on to the topic of utopia proper, including a contemplation of Oscar Wilde’s classic dictum that, “A map of the world without utopia is not worth looking at”; to past hopes and horrors brought about by the utopian ideologies of the 20th century; the immanent emancipatory potential of the US Constitution; Brexit as a Conservative utopian vision, and the failure of the Left to articulate a similarly compelling vision of the future.
February 2, 2020
Wittgenstein and Addiction: Sense Perception and Moral Perception
I’ve been reading Donald D. Hoffman’s The Case Against Reality: How  evolution hid the truth from our eyes. At one point Hoffman uses a  Wittgenstein quote to raise a point about how our senses can deceive us,  and this got me thinking about distortions in our moral perceptions,  too. Hoffman makes the point that from the basis of our everyday  perceptions of the world it is very natural to experience the earth as  the unmoving centre of the universe; to believe that the sun goes around  the earth. This quandary was once put to Wittgenstein, whom replied,  ‘what would it have looked liked if it had looked as if the earth turned  on its axis?’. This gap between perception and reality then made me  think that something like this can occur with our moral sense. How best  to treat addiction, for example, is just such a case in point.
January 26, 2020
Heidegger and the Uncanny with Johannes Niederhauser
For my debut podcast I’m delighted to have with me Johannes Niederhauser PhD. Johannes is a Heidegger scholar, currently teaches philosophy at Birkbeck College and will soon publish his first book on Heidegger’s phenomenology of death. Johannes is also the impresario of the Dead Philsophers Club, which he hosts at the Library Members club in London. Please check out his fascinating lectures and interviews at Classical Philosophy on youtube, Instagram and Patreon. In today’s discussion, Johannes and I explore Heidegger’s statement in The Thing that in the modern age, ‘the frantic abolition of distance brings no nearness’. We explore Heidegger’s notion from the personal realm of online interactions before expanding it out to encompass the global nature of drone warfare, ballistic missile defence and nuclear war. How do these Techniks, as Heidegger would put it, stem from a pathological spatial abstraction and what can be done to counter this?
December 14, 2019
Primitive Accumulation Trailer
Podcasts coming soon. Let's Get Primitive!
November 25, 2019