An Absentological Analysis of the Trace: Pre-Cambrian Arche-Writing, and Jacques Derrida’s Realism


Dr. Mark Horvath
Dr. Adam Lovasz


The first trace-fossil in the history of terrestrial life dates to the pre-Cambrian era. Left by an unknown species around 542 million years ago, Treptichnus are fossilized mud burrows, remaining as a geological testament to the early stages of complex life on Earth. Because of the impossibility of any empirical knowledge relating to these unfossilizable creatures, which presumably lacked a skeletal structure, any philosophical treatment of this paleobiological matter of fact must necessarily engage in speculation. Absentology as a speculative epistemontological register allows us to conceptualize these strange burrows as a key event. Following Jacques Derrida’s concept of"arche-writing", our essay presents an absentological reading of the forever unknowable unfossilized animal species. Arche-writing for Derrida is an abstract mode of writing that precedes speech and actual written language, hence this constitutes a concept that can be used for prelinguistic modes of expression. The trace fossils left by these unknown creatures constitute a type of prewriting, as well as the dawn of work, representing a crucial step in the evolution of complex life on this planet. A fossil that is not the animal itself, but rather a trace referring to an unknown organic singularity, this is the absent scene of arche-writing. A more realist Derrida emerges from this encounter, for whom extra-textual elements are even more relevant than explicit language.



Author Biographies

Dr. Mark Horvath, Esterházy Károly Catholic University, Institute of Fine Arts and Art Theory

Researcher, philosopher and art theorist based in Budapest. Mark is interested in the Anthropocene, post-anthropocentrism, postmodern social and political theory, in particular the work of Guy Debord and Jean Baudrillard. Mark has published numerous scholarly works, many co-authored with Adam Lovasz. Mark and Adam have written the first Hungarian-language textbooks on posthumanism and New Realism/s.

Dr. Adam Lovasz, Eötvös Loránd University, Institute of Philosophy

Researcher and philosopher based in Budapest. Adam's interests include Object-Oriented-Ontology, New Materialism, post-anthropocentrism and process philosophy. Adam is presently writing a book entitled On Nature and also co-writing a book with Mark Horvath about the topic of absentology. Adam is author of Updating Bergson (2021) and The System of Absentology in Ontological Philosophy (2016) and has also published in numerous peer-reviewed journals.


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