Elsewhere on the web, Jim Chamberlain (a former IPS member) posted a link to the work of Quentin Meillassoux, an emerging new voice in Continental philosophy and a former student of Badiou.  It looks interesting and worth checking out.


After Finitude


And this Amazon page has some interesting reviews.

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Do you think that Kegan focuses more on basic or transitional structures? I lean towards the former, since the meaning-making strategies he describes do appear to build on prior competencies, but do not seem to lead necessarily to the adoption of any particular worldview.
I"m not familiar enough with Kegan's work to judge. It would seem he deals with basic structures. Assuming so I reiterate a few points I made in the "false reason" thread.

Even with basic structures it seems the holarchical models assume that lower levels are completely subsumed and included in a higher synthesis, that their own agency is overidden by the higher agency. In Kegan's case, the subject of one level becomes the object of the next so that the previous stage can be viewed with distance rather than be embedded within in. In Wilber's terms, one can differentate with it rather than be fused with it. And ultimately one can then integrate it. But note that this model assumes a total objectivation of a previous level, as if one could achieve a complete conscious awareness of it. And cogscipragos like L&J remind us that much of the process of cognition remains sub- or unconscious. So this process of objectivization is very partial at best and limited to that infinitesimal portion of cognition that is consciously aware. So yes, it terms of our awareness, we can say that this process acts like a basic structure with increasing holarchical inclusion. But what of the rest?

One way Wilber deals with this is to differentiate the "bodies" into gross, subtle and causal. And in the past I've related these to consciousness, subconsciousness and unconsciousness. But again the difference between how I treat this and the way Wlber does is that his method again assumes that one can achive a complete conscious awareness of these "states." Which of course is standard in the traditional metaphysical paradigms he uses wholesale like Vedanta and Vajrayana. But given the contempory cogsci research this seems a bit retro-romantic to maintain this illusion that we can completely access our entire cognitive capacity, let alone "ultimate reality."

To pictorially represent this I've suggested venn diagrams instead of nested spheres. The latter operates under the complete subsumption assumption whereas the former allows for at least partial inclusion into a "conscious," rational model. But that portion of the former level (or "part") that is included is a small portion with the rest of the fomer level-part remaining beyond awareness and hence objectivation. So we are objectivizing not so much.

And it seems to me this process is in many ways is still stuck in a formal rational mode, a mode which presumes that things can be "objectified" and also assumes a completely conscious awareness. It is no wonder that the "spiritual" traditions and enlightenment rationality then still cling to this philosophy of the subject (and object), since they both arise from the formal operational mode. All of which is of couse the focus of the pomo critique, a critique which it seems M maintains while adding a few new twists of his own.
Yes, that makes sense. One thought that immediately arises for me is whether Kegan's subject-becoming-object can be envisioned more enactively: not necessarily as the structure-in-itself(-in-its-entirety) becoming finally known (and entirely included), but as an objectivizing enactment which can be more or less sophisticated. I'll need to reflect on that.
I'm curious to explore -- whenever I get the chance! -- the possible relationships (positive or negative) between Meillassoux's mathematically based ontology of contingency and Marks-Tarlow's mathematically based ontology of contradiction.

Not being a mathematician (not even close!), I'm sort of at a loss with many mathematical references, but this entry suggests that Meillassoux is up to something similar to Spencer-Brown's efforts, at least in ways of working if not conclusions (I'm too unclear on Meillassoux's work to speak to conclusions)...
It really doesn't seem like M is saying the same thing as Marks-Tarlow from the other thread. For example from this review:

"The point of disagreement between Hegel and Meillassoux is contradiction. To obtain a philosophical system of endless becoming and relating, Hegel sacrificed the Aristotelian principle of non-contradiction, so that anything objectively contains its dialectical opposite which makes it develop further, from inside as it were. Contradiction’s diffusion across all beings immediately turns Being into Becoming. And objective, real contradiction was the principle that made from Hegelianism a radical tradition, from Marx to Mao to Marcuse.

"For Meillassoux, however, the concept of contradiction entails a form of necessity which he will not allow. For if there were an entity that was contradictory, it would have to give up absolute contingency, being 'tied' to its non-being or its opposite and hampered in its development by this link (here Deleuze would concur). More abstractly, if non-existence and otherness are already attributes of the contradictory entity (it is and it is also not; it is its own other), it cannot really move between what it is and something else: 'a contradictory entity could never become other than it is now, for it is already ‘other than itself ’ as it exists now,' as Brassier clarifies about Meillassoux’ position. 'Since it remains self-identical in being-other than itself, it cannot pass into or out of existence. Thus it exists necessarily, since it is impossible to conceive of it as not existing.'"
A few notes on this Meillassoux business.

1. I don't much like the activity of thinking and what little of it I have done has generally been a disservice to my life; it is not particularly entertaining for me and rarely gets me where I want or need to go. But because we have just returned to Vla. from a 3-month helter-skelter, dashed-plan journey across one third of the USA and one third of Canada in a marginally functional, but thunderously powerful, '93 GMC conversion van, I am decompressing here in the tropics and giving my instincts and habits for impulse a necessary rest. So I sank to the level of thinking and thus welcomed the novelty of Meillassoux. I have not read After Finitude but absorbed almost everything I could find about it on the web. Apparently coming from a different source than Edward I found the essay by Arun Saldanha to be quite clear, direct and balanced and the most helpful review of those sampled.

2. I firmly appreciate the idea that contingency is the only absolute. Now that was a stroke of genius. Likewise for the perception that the Great Outdoors is chaos exempt from even probabilities. Both fit my experience especially the last three months of it that began with the eventually successful pro se work to quash an arrest warrant that had been issued for me in Arizona in 2005.

3. In Meillassoux I have finally found a contemporary writer to whom I can refer for the justification of my statement: : "The fact that so many smart people appreciate Kant really creeps me out."

4. Saldanha touches cursorily on Meillassoux' refutation of parts of Rorty's works, a refutation to which, within the limits of Saldanha's brevity, I disagree. My reading of the situation is that Meillassoux, a Continental philosopher much concerned with "what is," does not have the cultural perspective to sufficiently contextualize Rorty as an American political theorist focused on "what works."

5. I like this quote:

"The subject is transcendental only insofar as it is positioned in the world, of which it can only ever discover a finite aspect, and which it can never recollect in its totality. […] That the transcendental subject has this or that body is an empirical matter, but that it has [stronger still, it is] a body is a non-empirical condition of its taking place—the body, one could say, is the ‘retro-transcendental’ condition for the subject of knowledge.” (AF, 25)"

6. I agree with Kela and Edward that there isn't much of a correlation between the works of Meillassoux and Marks-Tarlow. Although they both call on mathematics for back-up, they are writing on two different topics. Parenthetically, I can appreciate Marks-Tarlow's application of a borrowed vocabulary to throw a novel light on long standing theory. If it helps to get her clientele through their troubled nights then it is more than worth all those difficult words.

7. In my research on Meillassoux I came across references to his fellow "Speculative Realist/Materialist," Ray Brassier. He is quoted in his Wikipedia bio as writing: "Philosophy....would do well to desist from issuing any further injunctions about the need to re-establish the meaningfulness of existence, the purposefulness of life, or mend the shattered concord between man and nature. It should strive to be more than a sop to the pathetic twinge of human self-esteem. Nihilism is not an existential quandary but a speculative opportunity." Yes! There is hope for humanity.

8. To the extent that the greatest "spiritual" event of my life was a six-week-long ecstatic revel at the realization of the total meaninglessness of human existence, I have a profound respect for the anti-humanism of Meillassoux and Brassier. My own modest nihilistic speculation is that those of us who care to can, from the depths of the abyss and for the sake of doing something cosmically unlawful, counterfeit an unabashedly arrogant faux humanism (is arrogance ever anything more than faux?) an live on in the joy of our own inauthenticity.

9. I again found nothing in this thread that has anything to do with spirituality, but that is just as well because I have noticed that whenever anyone posts anything in IPMS that is even vaguely spiritual it is immediately derided as naïve and the thread dies an early death.
Steven (or others), you might be interested to know that Brassier's Nihil Unbound is currently available in full online. (Jim sent me this link).
A few notes as per my habits here:

1) My thanks to Balder and Jim for this link to Brassier's book. From those parts that I have read...sometimes four or five times...I have found it to be less interesting than all the stuff that surrounds the work of Meillassoux. The third chapter of Brassier goes into great depth on Meillassoux. From this reading I can, just as a matter of principle, get behind Meillassoux. As for Brassier...cum se, cum sa.

2) A look at Brassier first: I like to boil stuff down and cut to the chase...I've got better things to do than spend time with academic philosophy...the essential part of B, that which is itching to be made manifest in the first chapter, is that his goal here in this book is to make the world safe for the ideals of his hero, Paul Churchland. Now I cannot think of a more banal raison d'etre, but if it gets Mister Brassier through whatever troubled nights he might encounter, what the hey! But what is interesting here is that when Churchland's "complete neuroscience" has eradicated Seller's "manifest image" of the human species off the map then nihilo is once again subsumed and thus eradicated in whatever meaning, or anti-meaning--used in the sense of "anti-matter" and not a negation or obliteration of "meaning" in the true nihilistic sense--so that rationality a la Churchland will prevail and meaning will once again be reinserted into the vocabulary of the scientistic Man...bow and scrape...bow and scrape....

3) Mister Brassier's chapter on Meillassoux zeros in on the latter's dessication of the whatever might be left of the idealistic absurdities of Kantian philosophy all the way down the line to Heidegger and Heideggerian tag-alongs. Fine with me. Now Meillassoux in his anti-correlationist project and Brassier in his pro-scientistic project go about their business as one critic mentioned, "fine-grained logic chopping." And that too is fine with me...it is boring as all hell, but we know that one must maintain one's street creds as an academic philosopher on the Continent but on the other hand we here in the Americas can shine it all on. All the cognoscenti know that French hegemony in whatever category can be proposed...whatever it was before...died in the treaties of Hurburtsburg and Paris in 1763.

4} "Lafayette we are here!"

Bow and scape, bow and scrape.

5) For all the words that Meillassoux put out in his 160 + pages, and for all the pages Brassier put out to tout him, Rorty wrote a few sentences within the first four pages of Contingency, Irony and Solidarity that meant the same thing: "What was needed and what the idealists were unable to envisage was a repudiation of the idea of anything--mind or matter, self or world--having an intrinsic nature to be expressed or represented. For the idealists confused the idea that nothing has such a nature with the idea that space and time are unreal, that human beings cause the spatiotemporal world to exist." Rorty wrote idealism off as common sense, "To say that the world is out there, that it is not our creation, is to say, with common sense, that most of the things in space and time are the effects of causes that do not include human mental states."

What we have is three sentences on one hand and two books on the other.

6. Nothing is more crucial than what entertains us between our feedings.
I reread this at theurg's suggestion and it really is a good account. Thanks again Balder. Several commetators I have read online have taken "correlationalism" as referring only to Kantianism, but this more detailed account makes it absolutely clear that Meillassoux means a much broader spectrum of philosophical/epistemic positions, including phenomenology, the phenomenalism/representationalism of the empiricists, and the constructivism of the post-moderns. So what does this mean for Sellars' kantian attack on the "myth of the given?"

Balder said:
Here's an essay which gives a pretty good overview of Meillassoux's work. I'll copy the first half of it here:


This article is a review of Apres la finitude, the remarkable debut book of Quentin Meillassoux.1 In my estimation, this work is one of the most important to appear in continental philosophy in recent years, and deserves a wide readership at the earliest possible date. An English translation by Ray Brassier will be published by Continuum in the near future.2
Meillassoux's book is written in a lucid and economical style, covering abundant terrain in just 165 pages. It offers bold readings of the history of philosophy-Aristotle is not realist enough, Hume not skeptical enough. It shows bursts of scathing wit, as when drawing wry parallels between the anti-Darwinian reveries of creationism and major schools of presentday philosophy. Most importantly, Apres la finitude offers a ruthless attack on virtually all of post-Kantian philosophy, now labeled as "correlationism," and proposes an original "speculative" solution (though not in Hegel's sense) to the Kantian impasse. Meillassoux proposes nothing less than a return of philosophy to the absolute, which for him means reality in itself apart from any relation to humans. The critical portions of the book strike me as definitive: much of what we know as analytic and continental philosophy looks rather different following his assault on correlationism. Meillassoux's own ideas, plausibly described as the mere antechamber to a larger and still unpublished system, lie open to possible objections. Nonetheless, his appeal to an "ancestral" realm prior to all human access succeeds in defining an unexpected new battlefield for continental thought. Barely forty years old, he seems likely to emerge as one of the important names in European philosophy in the decades to come.

We should begin by situating Meillassoux among the more established contemporary thinkers. For many years, continental philosophy in the Anglophone world was dominated by Heidegger and Derrida. Neither of these figures will soon disappear from radar, and Heidegger is now celebrated as a classic for the ages even by mainstream analytic thinkers. But since the miH-1990s, the HeideggeroDerridean brand of continental thought has faced increasing competition from new trends: initially from the books of Gilles Deleuze, and more recently from the heterodox tag team of Alain Badiou and a resurgent Slavoj Zizek. While major works by these "new" authors have been available for many years, what is more recent is their increased momentum among the younger generation of continental philosophers. In terms of background and orientation, Meillassoux is not difficult to place among these currents. He was a student of Badiou, and the preface to the book is written by Badiou himself, who can barely find sufficient words to praise it-by fusing absolute logical necessity with a radical contingency of the laws of nature, Meillassoux is said to "open in the history of philosophy... a new path foreign to Kant's canonical distribution between 'dogmatism,' 'scepticism,' and 'critique.'"3 Furthermore, despite the absence of set-theory notation and other known Badiouian flourishes, there are obvious points of similarity between teacher and student: the major role for mathematics, including the anointment of Georg Cantor as a pivotal figure for philosophy; the fondness for step-by-step logical argumentation; the absence of any especial interest in Heidegger or the phenomenological tradition. Both authors also display grand systematic ambitions of a kind that seemed unthinkable in our field a short time ago.
Nonetheless, Meillassoux's vision of the world is not Badiou's, and certain aspects of the former even cut against the grain of the latter. According to published information, Meillassoux was born in 1967 in Paris, son of the economic anthropologist Claude Meillassoux (19252005), an intellectual maverick in his own right. He is a graduate of the Ecole Normale Superieure, and has been employed at that institution for the past decade. Although Apres la finitude is Quentin Meillassoux's first book, anecdotal evidence suggests that he was generally known and highly regarded in Paris well beyond Badiou's circle even before the book appeared.

The very title After Finitude will be enough to startle present-day continental thought, since human finitude has been perhaps the central credo of the field from the time of its birth. The book consists of two opening critical chapters followed by two longer and more systematic chapters, closing with a short fifth chapter that harks back to the opening critique. Since Meillassoux himself agrees that Chapters 1, 2, and 5 can be taken as a unit,4 quite apart from whether the reader accepts the philosophical standpoint outlined in Chapters 3 and 4, the present review is organized according to this schema. Beginning with Meillassoux's onslaught against the Copernican Revolution of Kant, I will move to his more challenging attempt to establish a mathematical ontology that abandons the principle of sufficient reason, before closing with a brief assessment of the book as a whole.

Against Correlationism

One of the typical features of recent continental thought is its contempt for so-called "naive realism." The human being is now firmly established as the point of entry for all serious philosophy, even if redefined as a pure ego, linguistic agent, embodied animal, subject of power-plays, or historically rooted Dasein. The notion of an objective world-in-itself seems to elude our grasp. Nonetheless, few authors have faced this predicament with full-blown absolute idealism a la Berkeley-if not quite "naive," such extreme idealism strikes most of us as gratuitous and bizarre amidst the undeniable blows of the world. This leaves philosophy in an ambiguous position, neither realist nor idealist.
The obvious roots of this ambiguity lie in the Copernican Revolution of Kant, still the basic philosophical horizon of both the analytics and the continentals. Meillassoux's book ends with the daring claim that Kant's Revolution is in fact "a Ptolemaic Counter-Revolution (163),"5 one that makes philosophy revolve around humans at the precise moment when modern science had plunged into the world itself. In the wake of Kant's genius, we are too clever to believe in direct access to things in themselves, but also too sober to construct wild solipsistic theories that reduce the world to nothing but our own production. The favored middle-ground position for philosophers has been what Meillassoux calls "correlationism" (18). The correlationist holds that we can neither conceive of humans without world, nor of world without humans, but must root all philosophy in a correlation or rapport between the two.
The term "correlationism" strikes me as a devastating summary of post-Kantian thought. On the continental side, we find Husserl pleading for objectivity against psychologism while also defending ideality against the natural sciences; we have Heidegger claiming that reality neither exists nor fails to exist in the absence of Dasein; more recently, we see Zizek describe the Real as solely a gap in the world posited by the mad human subject, even while denying that he is an idealist.

On the analytic side, there is the "as if of Blackburn's quasi-realism; the internal exile of Putnam's internal realism; and Davidson's refusal to take the realism/anti-realism dispute seriously. All these positions, and countless others, join in allegiance to what Meillassoux calls the "correlational circle" (19). As he wonderfully puts it: "we will henceforth term correlationism every current of thought that upholds the uncircumventible character of the correlation understood in this way. Thus, we can say that every philosophy that claims not to be a naive realism has become a variant of correlationism" (18). The correlationist argument, often left vague or entirely unstated, holds that any attempt to think reality-in-itself automatically turns it into something not in-itself-since, after all, we are now thinking about it (17). On this basis, there is supposedly no way to reach the world an sich, but only a global correlation of human and world. Philosophy has lost what Meillassoux calls Ie Grand Dehors, "the Great Outside." In its place, we find that "this space of the outside is hence only the space of that which faces us, of that which exists only on the basis of a vis-a-vis with our own existence.... We do not transcend very far beyond ourselves when diving into such a world: we are content to explore the two faces of something that remains a face-to-face" (21 ). This correlate need not take the form of the old subject/object dualism. Indeed, most present-day philosophers unite in heaping scorn upon the antiquated model of subject and object. But this does not prevent them from remaining locked in the modern dance-step of correlationism. In particular, Meillassoux cites Heidegger's supposedly "more originary" correlation of being and thought in Ereignis as an example of how the rejection of subject and object does not quite get us off the correlationist hook (22). As Meillassoux sees it, all postcritical philosophy is correlationism (23)-or else a relapse into metaphysics, as with Whitehead and perhaps even the vitalism of Deleuze.6 Before Kant, philosophers dueled over who had the best model of substance: was it perfect forms, individual beings, prime matter, atoms, or God? Since Kant, these "naive" disputes have been replaced by combat over who has the best model of the human-world correlate: is it subject-object, noesis-noema, Dasein-Sein, or language-referent? In Meillassoux's eyes, "co" has become the dominant particle of the philosopher's lexicon (19), just as "always already" (21 ) has become the beloved phrase of those who grant extra-human reality only when we ourselves posit it retroactively. Yes, they tell us, the world exists in itself-but only for us (26).

The work of Quentin Meillassoux is meant as a clean break with all forms of correlationism, and he approaches the task with unusual boldness. He begins by drawing up a table of actual scientific dates (known to Heideggerians as "mere ontic information"): 13.5 billion years since the Big Bang, 4.45 billion since the formation of the earth, 3.5 billion since life began on our planet, and just two million years since the appearance of homo habilis (24).
He asks us to consider the status of statements about ancient events predating the relatively recent appearance of human beings, those pampered tyrants of correlational philosophy. For those entities that exist prior to all human life, Meillassoux coins the term "archifossil," and describes them as having "ancestrality" (24-26). In his view, the correlationists will always be at a loss when trying to deal with the ancestral archifossil. Their likely maneuver is a predictable one: the correlationist will not admit that a being actually exists prior to being given to humans, but only that it is given to humans as existing prior to such givenness (32). They will say that "the physical universe is not really known to precede the existence of humans, or at least the existence of living creatures; the world has meaning only as given to a living or thinking being" (33). They will try to reduce scientific statements about ancestral stellar explosions and mudslides to the means of scientific givenness of these events, just as in positivism or verificationism. "We can therefore say that the statement is true... without naively believing that its truth results from an adequation with the actual reality of its referent (a world without givenness of world)" (ibid.).

This correlationist attitude toward science is at the same time both modest and condescending. For on the one hand it leaves nature entirely to the sciences, laying no claim to the objective world for philosophy at all. But simultaneously, it holds that there is something more in the world that science cannot grasp (cf. Heidegger's "science does not think") -- a "logical" priority of statements about the world over the "chronological" priority of ancestral events themselves (32). In so doing, correlationists play the game of pretending that they do not interfere with the content of scientific statements. Yet interfere they do. For if scientific statements about the archifossil are not taken literally, they lose meaning altogether. The statement that the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago means exactly what it says. It does mean what the correlationists claim, namely that "it is not ancestrality that precedes givenness, it is the present given that retroactively projects a past that seems ancestral" (34). For this is no longer the same statement as that of the scientists, and its supposedly agnostic attitude toward the real world cannot hide a form of crypto-idealism, since it tacitly dismisses all forms of realism as naive. Although Meillassoux's book does not openly equate correlationism with idealism, he does give an important hint along these lines: "faced with the archifossil, all idealisms converge and become equally extraordinary" (36). Insofar as Berkeley, Hegel, Heidegger, and Derrida all have equally little to tell us about events on the moon fifty million years ago, they all look like extreme idealists as soon as the archifossil rears its head. Just as some creationists claim that God planted pseudo-ancient fossils in the ground to test the Biblical faith of scientists, Meillassoux suggests acidly that his notion of the archifossil may serve to "test the philosopher's faith in the correlates, even in the presence of data that indicate an abyssal gap between that which exists and that which appears" (ibid.). For this reason, the problem of ancestrality is capable of overturning everything in philosophy since Kant (37). Moreover, as Meillassoux states at the close of his book, this problem would not disappear even if humans and the world had been created simultaneously-for in this case it still might have been otherwise, and hence the archifossil could still be reflected upon as a possibility (156-57). In passing, it should be said that this reformulation is perhaps too limited. It seems to me that the correlationist circle would be threatened not just by archifossils dating to before the emergence of the human species, but equally so by "extrafossils" lying outside current human access, such as objects locked in hidden vaults or refrigerators, or unknown oil reserves trapped beneath the ocean floor. After all, events unfolding right now in the core of Alpha Centauri actually happen inside that star, and not in the core of Alpha Centauri "for us."

In any case, Meillassoux holds that correlationism and naive realism are two separate ways of dodging the question of ancestrality (38). By contrast with his detailed analysis of correlationism, his arguments against naive realism are somewhat sketchy throughout the book, though this can perhaps be explained by the limited number of naive realists practicing philosophy today. Meillassoux insists that philosophy must seek nothing less than the absolute, abandoning its fixation on the transcendental conditions of human experience (39). Nonetheless, "we can no longer be metaphysicians, we can no longer be dogmatists. On this point, we can only be the heirs of Kantianism" (40).

"... NOT my cup of tea..." hahaha.

Balder said:
Interesting. That does seem close to D's messianic notions. But I'm not sure how that lines up with Kegan's work (on the unfolding of orders of meaning-making and world-negotiation), which I find more compelling than what I understand Zizek to be saying. It seems to me that Zizek is describing a particular turn, not the necessary shape of every turn.

Jim tells me he's reading After Finitude in preparation for reading Nihil Unbound by Ray Brassier (who is the one who wrote the summary I quoted above, I believe). The thesis of Nihil Unbound is a strong eliminative materialism -- not my cup of tea, but I may check it out based on Jim's recommendation.
Still true re: materialism.  But this is by no means a rejection of materialist accounts, nor does it stem from a desire to preserve room for timeless, disembodied entities.  He Who Shall Not Be Named once shared with me an essay (the title of which I do not recall) which essentially argued that 'matter' itself is often too narrowly and inadequately conceived and described, and I agree with this and am sympathetic to some enactive and related perspectives out there that might be called 'physicalist' if not materialist.  Postmetaphysics, as I conceive it, makes room for a robust physicalist or materialist account without being reductive or, um, monological.
There was, according to some, a kind of materialist/skeptical school in classical India that also claimed to have a kind of 'spiritual' path, the Tattva-upaplavavadins. They were vitandavadins, like the ancient ajnanikas (skeptics/agnostics), Shri Harsha, the most sophistcated of the Advaitins, and the Prasangika Madhyamikas, and like those other schools, made use of a reductive dialectic (neither a, not a, both a and not a, neither a nor not a).

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