Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Sunday, July 22, 2018

What's Wrong with Boulder, Colorado?

Kid-unfriendliness, that's what. What a shame, because I came here for the week hoping to have a nice time while my daughter is in meditation camp. 

I just posted this review on the Facebook page of a restaurant called Sushi Zanmai: 
I used to live in Boulder. I used to love coming to Sushi Zanmai, which I did almost every other week in the later 1990s. I've just had an experience there that has made me realize I can't ever go there again. 
I took my son Simon, who is little, to the toilet. The wait staff cleared all our food away. 

When I complained to the manager, she tried to make it my fault by saying that I hadn't left something at the table to identify myself. What? My wallet? My $1000 phone? 

She tried to tell me that I had been treated well by being given two items of food afterwards--that were part of our original order. 

Wow. I'm so sad. I can't possibly go to Sushi Zanmai again. It just goes to show how kid-unfriendly Boulder can be. You can enjoy this town in your twenties, if you're white. Otherwise, forget it. 
I have a whole week left to avoid going to my favorite restaurant. What a shame.

I'd like to point out that this has never happened to me before, ever, on Earth. I visit a lot of countries with Simon (9). 

(Oh, and the town remains sooo embarrassingly white.)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Frankenstein

This is the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Shelley's first novel, whose significance for me personally is incredibly deep. It's a foundational text of modern culture, so I'm not alone. I think I've been trying to write about it in pretty much everything I've done since 1988, when I wrote my undergrad essay on it for David Norbrook at Magdalen College Oxford.

I'm so sad that I can't be at the bicentenary celebrations in Rome this week. I'd been invited but I can't make it.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Italian Hyperobjects Is Out

Iperogetti is a word even more extradinary than hyperobjects and I think the lettering on the cover, which looks like cigarettes standing on end, is fantastic. Here's a piece about it in Esquire

Spanish Hyperobjects (Mexican press) is also out, right about now.

The Dutch translations of Being Ecological and Dark Ecology have been out since about April.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Being Ecological Is Me Curating Yoko Ono

If you've gotten a copy you'll see something interesting somewhere in the middle there. It was so awesome she agreed to this.

Look at the top of the doorway:


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Fundamentalism Is a Form of Satanism. Discuss

The Moral Theology of the Devil
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
(New York: New Directions, 1972), 90–7


The devil has a whole system of theology and philosophy, which will explain, to anyone who will listen, that created things are evil, that men are evil, that God created evil and that He directly wills that men should suffer evil. According to the devil, God rejoices in the suffering of men and, in fact, the whole universe is full of misery because God has willed and planned it that way.
   Indeed, says this system of theology, God that Father took real pleasure in delivering His Son to His murderers, and God the Son came to earth because He wanted to be punished by the Father. Both of them together seek nothing more than to punish and persecute their faithful ones. As a matter of fact, in creating the world God had clearly in mind that man would inevitably sin and it was almost as if the world were created in order that man might sin, so that God would have an opportunity to manifest His justice.
   So, according to the devil, the first thing created was really hell—as if everything else were, in some sense, for the sake of hell. Therefore the devotional life of those who are “faithful” to this kind of theology consists above all in an obsession with evil. As if there were not already enough evils in the world, they multiply prohibitions and make new rules, binding everything with thorns, so that man may not escape evil and punishment. For they would have him bleed from morning to night, though even with so much blood there is no remission of sin! The Cross, then, is no longer a sign of mercy (for mercy has no place in such a theology), it is the sign that Law and Justice have utterly triumphed, as if Christ had said: “I came not to destroy the Law but to be destroyed by it.” For this, according to the devil, is the only way in which the Law could really and truly be “fulfilled.” Not love but punishment is the fulfillment of the Law. The Law must devour everything, even God. Such is this theology of punishment, hatred and revenge. He who would live by such a dogma must rejoice in punishment. He may, indeed, successfully evade punishment himself by “playing ball” with the Law and the Lawgiver. But he must take good care that others do not avoid suffering. He must occupy his mind with their present and future punishment. The Law must triumph. There must be no mercy.
   This is the chief mark of the theology of hell, for in hell there is everything but mercy. That is why God himself is absent from hell. Mercy is the manifestation of his presence.
   The theology of the devil is for those who, for one reason or another, whether because they are perfect, or because they have come to an agreement with the Law, no longer need any mercy. With them (O grim joy!) God is “satisfied.” So too is the devil. It is quite an achievement, to please everybody!
   The people who listen to this sort of thing, and absorb it, and enjoy it, develop a notion of the spiritual life which is a kind of hypnosis of evil. The concepts of sin, suffering, damnation, punishment, the justice of God, retribution, the end of the world and so on, are things over which they smack their lips with unspeakable pleasure. Perhaps this is because they derive a deep, subconscious comfort from the though that many other people will fall into the hell which they themselves are going to escape. And how do they know they are going to escape it? They cannot give any definite reason except for the fact that they feel a certain sense of relief at the thought that all this punishment is prepared for practically everyone but themselves.
   This feeling of complacency is what they refer to as “faith,” and it constitutes a kind of conviction that they are “saved.”
   
The devil makes many disciples by preaching against sin. He convinces them of the great evil of sin, induces a crisis of guilt by which “God is satisfied.” And after that he lets them spend the rest of their lives meditating on the intense sinfulness and evident reprobation of other men.

The moral theology of the devil starts out with the principle: “Pleasure is sin.” Then he goes to work it the other way: “All sin is pleasure.”
   After that he points out that pleasure is practically unavoidable and that we have a natural tendency to do things that please us, from which he reasons that all our natural tendencies are evil and that our nature is evil in itself. And he leads us to the conclusion that no one can possibly avoid sin, since pleasure is inescapable.
   After that, to make sure that no one will try to escape or avoid sin, he adds that what is unavoidable cannot be a sin. Then the whole concept of sin is thrown out the window as irrelevant, and people decide that there is nothing left except to live for pleasure, and in that way pleasures that are naturally good become evil by deordination and lives are thrown away in unhappiness and sin.
   
It sometimes happens that men who preach most vehemently about evil and the punishment of evil, so that they seem to have practically nothing else on their minds except sin, are really unconscious haters of other men. They think the world does not appreciate them, and this is their way of getting even.
   The devil is not afraid to preach the will of God provided he can preach it in his own way.
   The argument goes something like this: “God wills you to do what is right. But you have an interior attraction which tells you, by a nice warm glow of satisfaction, what is right. Therefore, if others try to interfere and make you do something that does not produce this comfortable sense of interior satisfaction, quote Scripture, tell them that you ought to obey God rather than men, and then go ahead and do your own will, do the thing that gives you that nice, warm glow.”
   
The theology of the devil is really not theology but magic. “Faith” in this theology is really not the acceptance of a God Who reveals Himself as mercy. It is a psychological, subjective “force” which applies a kind of violence to reality in order to change it according to one's own whims. Faith is a kind of supereffective wishing: a mastery that comes from a special, mysteriously dynamic will power that is generated by “profound convictions.” By virtue of this wonderful energy one can exert a persuasive force even on God Himself and bend His will to one's own will. By this astounding new dynamic soul force of faith (which any quack can develop in you for an appropriate remuneration) you can turn God into a means to your own ends. We become civilized medicine men, and God becomes our servant. Though He is terrible in His own right, He respects our sorcery, He allows Himself to be tamed by it. He will appreciate our dynamism, and will reward it with success in everything we attempt. We will become popular because we have “faith.” We will be rich because we have “faith.” All our national enemies will come and lay down their arms at our feet because we have “faith.” Business will boom all over the world, and we will be able to make money out of everything and everyone under the sun because of the charmed life we lead. We have faith.
   But there is a subtle dialectic in all this, too.
   We hear that faith does everything. So we close our eyes and strain a bit, to generate some “soul force.” We believe. We believe.
   Nothing happens.
   We close our eyes again, and generate some more soul force. The devil likes us to generate soul force. He helps us to generate plenty of it. We are just gushing with soul force.
   But nothing happens.
   So we go on with this until we become disgusted with the whole business. We get tired of “generating soul force.” We get tired of this “faith” that does not do anything to change reality. It does not take away our anxieties, our conflicts, it leaves us a prey to uncertainty. It does not lift all responsibilities off our shoulders. Its magic is not so effective after all. It does not thoroughly convince us that God is satisfied with us, or even that we are satisfied with ourselves (though in this, it is true, some people's faith is quite effective).
   Having become disgusted with faith, and therefore with God, we are now ready for the Totalitarian Mass Movement that will pick us up on the rebound and make us happy with war, with the persecution of “inferior races” or of enemy classes, or generally speaking, with actively punishing someone who is different from ourselves.
   
Another characteristic of the devil's moral theology is the exaggeration off all distinctions between this and that, good and evil, right and wrong. These distinctions become irreducible divisions. No longer is there any sense that we might perhaps all be more or less at fault, and that we might be expected to take upon our own shoulders the wrongs of others by forgiveness, acceptance, patient understanding and love, and thus help one another to find the truth. On the contrary, in the devil's theology, the important thing is to be absolutely right and to prove that everybody else is absolutely wrong. This does not exactly make for peace and unity among men, because it means that everyone wants to be absolutely right himself or to attach himself to another who is absolutely right. And in order to prove their rightness they have to punish and eliminate those who are wrong. Those who are wrong, in turn, convinced that they are right … etc.
   Finally, as might be expected, the moral theology of the devil grants an altogether unusual amount of importance to … the devil. Indeed one soon comes to find out that he is the very center of the whole system. That he is behind everything. That he is moving everybody in the world except ourselves. That he is out to get even with us. And that there is every chance of his doing so because, it now appears, his power is equal to that of God, or even perhaps superior to it …
   In one word, the theology of the devil is purely and simply that the devil is god.









Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Go Stanley

On not every day of my life have the thoughts of Stanley Fish and myself been this well aligned:

The insistence on the primacy of narratives and interpretations does not involve a deriding of facts but an alternative story of their emergence. Postmodernism sets itself against the notion of facts just lying there discrete and independent, and waiting to be described. Instead it argues that fact is the achievement of argument and debate, not a pre-existing entity by whose measure argument can be assessed. Arguments come first; when they are successful, facts follow — at least for a while, until a new round of arguments replaces them with a new set of facts.

This is far from the picture of Nietzschean nihilism that Hanson and others paint. Friction, not free invention, is the heart of the process: You commit yourself to the standards of evidence long in place in the conversation you enter, and then you maneuver as best you can within the guidelines of those standards. Thus, for example, a judge who issues a decision cannot simply decide which side he favors and then generate an opinion; he must first pass through and negotiate the authorized routes for getting there. Sometimes the effort at negotiation will fail and he will say that despite his interpretive desires, “This opinion just won’t write.”

Any opinion will write if there are no routes to be negotiated or no standards to hew to, if nothing but your own interpretive desire prevents you from assembling or reassembling bits of unmoored data lying around in the world into a story that serves your purposes. It is not postmodernism that licenses this irresponsibility; it is the doctrine that freedom of information and transparency are all we need.

Those who proclaim this theology can in good faith ignore or bypass all the usual routes of validation because their religion tells them that those routes are corrupt and that only the nonmethod of having no routes, no boundaries, no categories, no silos can bring us to the River Jordan and beyond.

In many versions of Protestantism, parishioners are urged to reject merely human authority in any form and go directly to the pure word of God. For the technophiles the pure word of God is to be found in data. In fact, what is found in a landscape where data detached from any context abounds is the fracturing of the word into ever proliferating pieces of discourse, all existing side by side, indifferently approved, and without any way of distinguishing among them, of telling which of them are true or at least have a claim to be true and which are made up out of whole cloth.

That is the world of fake news. It is created by the undermining of trust in the traditional vehicles of authority and legitimation — major newspapers, professional associations, credentialed academics, standard encyclopedias, government bureaus, federal courts, prime-time nightly news anchors.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Translations

You can now read Ecology without Nature in Japanese, Chinese, Danish and German.

You can read The Ecological Thought in Chinese (and soon in French).

You can read Dark Ecology and Being Ecological in Dutch.

You can read Hyperobjects in Italian and Spanish (amazing covers my friends).

Fairly soon there will be some more (Being Ecological in Italian for example), and I know I'm forgetting some.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Big Botany Wednesday

Here are some nice notes about what I'm doing at the Spencer Museum of Art in Kansas tomorrow:


Sunday, April 8, 2018

My New Bio

It's really hard to get these things write and there are different ones for different occasions but this is what I like to say about myself these days:

Timothy Morton is Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University. He has collaborated with Björk, Jennifer Walshe, Olafur Eliasson, Haim Steinbach, Emilija Škarnulytė and Pharrell Williams. He is the author of Being Ecological (Penguin, 2018), Humankind: Solidarity with Nonhuman People (Verso, 2017), Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence (Columbia, 2016), Nothing: Three Inquiries in Buddhism (Chicago, 2015), Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minnesota, 2013), Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality (Open Humanities, 2013), The Ecological Thought (Harvard, 2010), Ecology without Nature (Harvard, 2007), eight other books and 200 essays on philosophy, ecology, literature, music, art, architecture, design and food. In 2014 Morton gave the Wellek Lectures in Theory. Blog: http://www.ecologywithoutnature.blogspot.com. Twitter: @the_eco_thought

Thursday, April 5, 2018

I Want to Write this on the Back of the Next Edition of Ian Bogost's Play Everything

"I wonder why the graybeards make it look so difficult. Ian Bogost shows you how to change your world in a few easy steps you learned when you were five or less."

Friday, March 30, 2018

My friend Rune with some great words on dark ecology and VanderMeer

...in Danish, scuse the translation:

The film operates here both psychologically and biologically and physically in a form of 'dark ecology', as the ecophilosopher Timothy Morton has called it. Because according to dark ecology, everything is constantly changing, including the subject, it's unwise to try to distinguish between the hidden one on one side and the world out there on the other side.

As Morton points out, "we" should not, as in earlier and more traditional ecological purposes, elevate "the natural" (plants, animals, moles and rocks) to a noble design as something pure and unchangeable. Instead, we should completely drop the idea of "the natural" and instead look at the world as one big and always variable size, which is not only in constant motion, but also always is "us" and vice versa.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

New Translation of Charbonneau

...into English! Coming out with Bloomsbury. Here's my endorsement:

The ecological emergency is so systemic and so vast that the human imagination—the feel of our thinking powers—is frozen like someone afraid of heights, terrified of her capacity to visualize what seems to be a tragedy or a nightmare. One response is to freeze the future, the idea that things could be different, as around the world people consent to fascist-paranoid politics that relieve them of the burden of thinking and visualizing. Christian Roy’s lovely translation of Charbonneau’s masterpiece is like allergy medicine that allows us to un-freeze, and for the sake of all lifeforms on Earth, staying fluid in the struggle is now exactly what William Blake meant by “mental fight.”

Hyperobjects Exhibition in Marfa, Texas starts in two weeks!

Here's what I've written for the guide:

Will All Artists Please Come to a White Courtesy Telephone
Timothy Morton

Art has one foot in the past, and one foot in the future. All the decisions, deliberate and not deliberate, that a host of things made--we could call this host the author or the artist (historical era, economic system—these two are often included, ecosystem not so much quite yet). Then again, just what exactly is this work of art? What is it “saying” (and so on). Such questions trail off into a kind of quietness we might call the future. Threateningly gentle, it haunts the machinations that brought us to wherever we’re calling “here” at the moment.
And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? (As my old Oxford tutor Terry Eagleton was fond of saying.) At whatever scale we zoom out to, we aren’t in control as humans at all—not even on the ones we inhabit, not in control as much anyway, because the whole point of inhabiting is that it’s unstable, it’s in motion (hint: it has to do with time). There is at every scale not a smooth transition but a dizzying whirlpool of spinning disco ball lights illuminated by lasers, that feeling of uneasy relative motion, moving while still, stillness in movement.

Ecological awareness just means being aware that things happen on a bewildering variety of scales all at once, and that what that looks like on one scale is very different on another scale. What looks like a boiling kettle to my human eyes looks very different from an electron’s point of view: suddenly finding that you’ve teleported to a higher orbit isn’t the same as the smooth, chattery-sounding phenomenon we call boiling.

And once you become aware of the idea that there are all these extra scales, you begin to notice that some scales are so big or so small (that also includes “long lasting” or “fleeting” too) that all we can mostly do is report and observe—or, if you like, undergo or endure. Perhaps things we call fate or chance or destiny or karma are just effects of entities that happen on scales we can’t do much with right now except report and observe. And maybe sometimes undergoing such things, scary and passive as that sounds, might help open up the possibility that things could be different—the future. Assuming, that is, that the way things are right now doesn’t work so great—for instance we are now aware, because we have the recording apparatus to help us (such as supercomputers) of global warming and the mass extinction that it’s causing.

These scales are where the hyperobjects live: entities that are so massively distributed in time and space that we humans can only see or deal with little pieces of them at a time—they might not even look as if they’re present or real, especially if we find that we’re inside them or are parts of them (such as being a part of the biosphere).

They’re almost invisible precisely because they’re so huge and powerful and immersive (we have them inside us, radiation for example). They’re scarily to-be-observed or to-be-endured. They require very special kinds of awareness and handling, the kind that we’re not well socialized to cope with, but which, in the case of global warming, we must cope with.

Sounds like a job for art to me.

Friday, February 23, 2018

I Am Disabled

Mark Fisher was my friend. He was and I am disabled, only on the inside. I scored 96% on the depression test, and the psychiatrist said, “I can’t believe you made it this far,” aka in my life, alive. 

The amount of negativity I’m receiving is an indication of how unacceptable mental illness still is. I will never stop speaking up for the importance of taking care of oneself. 

The kind of disability we have/had requires pills, not wheelchairs. I am on the maximum dose of a drug called Wellbutrin. The pills have limits. Like everything else. One thing they do is, they make sure you don’t die.

I love Mark’s sentences. They’re amazing. I wrote him fan letters about them. We need more amazing sentences. 

I yearn for more of Mark’s. What he wrote about Joy Division is utterly unsurpassable. I think about it a lot. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Antidepressants

Ever so sorry to have written a tweet that is causing upset. I’ve deleted it.

You’re welcome to suggest ways I can repair anything I’ve damaged if you wish. It’s an issue that is very close to my heart, and the last time I spoke with Mark it was about all this, and it included an exchange on Twitter where we discussed what had then just been released to the media, namely a report that claimed these sorts of medicine were no better than placebo.

One problem for me is, I’m still going through grief processes about Mark myself, and when someone I care about commits suicide I tend to go straight from shock to anger. But this doesn’t make it easy for others to receive my communications about it.

I’m very out about my own depression (same intensity level as Mark’s), and am determined to help people know they can get help, in various different ways.

The Lancet just published something that confirmed that antidepressants do work much better than placebo, and I think it’s important to talk about that. I’ll see if I can find ways of doing it that are less personal.