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Bitcoin and Philosophy

Instructor: Nick Land Module: 1 & 2 Date & Time: Sundays: March 22nd - May 5th 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM EST; 11:00 PM - 1:30 AM UTC+8

DESCRIPTION
This principal purpose of this seminar is to constitute Bitcoin – in all of its main senses, as a protocol, a currency, and a contemporary industrial revolution – as a definite philosophical object. Through this process, philosophical conceptuality and method undergoes significant reciprocal modification. In particular, the understanding of philosophical appropriation as a hash of its object introduces cryptographic principles into its most basic procedures.

The first module of the seminar is devoted to an analytical abstraction of the Bitcoin system, accommodated to the language and problems of philosophy. A close reading of Satoshi Nakamoto’s catalytic 2008 paper provides an anchor for discussion. By methodically reconstructing the Bitcoin solution to the double-spending problem, in terms that fully-capture – but displace – its articulation within computer science, the Bitcoin system is brought into communication with more highly-generalized philosophical concerns.

The second module turns to the inherited fundamental concepts that have been re-installed by the Bitcoin machine. These include: money, contract, property, work, society, power, knowledge, truth, signs, history, agency, identity, time, and being. By grouping these concepts into four coherent clusters – duplicity, singularity, and the sign; the open secret (the public and the private); computer power (politics, anti-politics, and the Bitcoin commercium); and artificial singularity (truth, time, and being) – some tractable compression is achieved.

REQUIREMENTS AND DETAILS
Each module of the two-part seminar will be composed of four two and a half hour sessions, each of which will be conducted as an extended seminar. During this period material blogged the previous week will be discussed alongside the set material. Based upon the set readings, online news and commentary, and ongoing class discussion, students will be expected to contribute ~400 words of content to the seminar blog on relevant topics. (This will additionally be posted to the google classroom page for everyone to read and comment upon as they wish, providing some preliminary threads for the group discussion). The final assessment will consist of a 2500 word extended blog essay on a topic agreed upon with the instructor in advance.

Preliminary Reading:
Nakamoto, Satoshi, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” (2008)
Diffie, W.; Hellman, M, “New Directions in Cryptography” (1976),
Szabo, Nick, “Shelling Out — The Origins of Money” (2002)
& “Smart Contracts: Building Blocks for Digital Markets” (1996)

Background Material:
Hobbes, Leviathan
Locke, Two Treatises of Government
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
Heidegger, Being and Time
Turing, ‘On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem’
Deleuze & Guattari, Capitalism and Schizophrenia (two volumes)

**We can accept bitcoin for this seminar as well. Email us at info@thenewcentre.org for more information**


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