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

Thursday, August 30, 2018

BBC vs Alex Jones

This is brilliant. At last one of Britain's fiercest interviewers, John Humphrys, gets his teeth around the Alex Jones conspiracy theory.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/p06jt42s

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Don't Just Read This, Really Think about What You're Going to Do about It

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a friend of mine — an expert on international relations — made a joke: “Now that Eastern Europe is free from the alien ideology of Communism, it can return to its true historical path — fascism.” Even at the time, his quip had a real edge.

And as of 2018 it hardly seems like a joke at all. What Freedom House calls illiberalism is on the rise across Eastern Europe. This includes Poland and Hungary, both still members of the European Union, in which democracy as we normally understand it is already dead.

In both countries the ruling parties — Law and Justice in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary — have established regimes that maintain the forms of popular elections, but have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent. The result seems likely to be one-party rule for the foreseeable future.

And it could all too easily happen here. There was a time, not long ago, when people used to say that our democratic norms, our proud history of freedom, would protect us from such a slide into tyranny. In fact, some people still say that. But believing such a thing today requires willful blindness. The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule.

Just look at what has been happening at the state level.

In North Carolina, after a Democrat won the governorship, Republicans used the incumbent’s final days to pass legislation stripping the governor’s office of much of its power.

In Georgia, Republicans tried to use transparently phony concerns about access for disabled voters to close most of the polling places in a mainly black district.

In West Virginia, Republican legislators exploited complaints about excessive spending to impeach the entire State Supreme Court and replace it with party loyalists.

And these are just the cases that have received national attention. There are surely scores if not hundreds of similar stories across the nation. What all of them reflect is the reality that the modern G.O.P. feels no allegiance to democratic ideals; it will do whatever it thinks it can get away with to entrench its power.

What about developments at the national level? That’s where things get really scary. We’re currently sitting on a knife edge. If we fall off it in the wrong direction — specifically, if Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress in November — we will become another Poland or Hungary faster than you can imagine.
This week Axios created a bit of a stir with a scoop about a spreadsheet circulating among Republicans in Congress, listing investigations they think Democrats are likely to carry out if they take the House. The thing about the list is that every item on it — starting with Donald Trump’s tax returns — is something that obviously should be investigated, and would have been investigated under any other president. But the people circulating the document simply take it for granted that Republicans won’t address any of these issues: Party loyalty will prevail over constitutional responsibility.

Many Trump critics celebrated last week’s legal developments, taking the Manafort conviction and the Cohen guilty plea as signs that the walls may finally be closing in on the lawbreaker in chief. But I felt a sense of deepened dread as I watched the Republican reaction: Faced with undeniable evidence of Trump’s thuggishness, his party closed ranks around him more tightly than ever.

A year ago it seemed possible that there might be limits to the party’s complicity, that there would come a point where at least a few representatives or senators would say, no more. Now it’s clear that there are no limits: They’ll do whatever it takes to defend Trump and consolidate power.

This goes even for politicians who once seemed to have some principles. Senator Susan Collins of Maine was a voice of independence in the health care debate; now she sees no problem with having a president who’s an unindicted co-conspirator appoint a Supreme Court justice who believes that presidents are immune from prosecution. Senator Lindsey Graham denounced Trump in 2016, and until recently seemed to be standing up against the idea of firing the attorney general to kill the Mueller investigation; now he’s signaled that he’s O.K. with such a firing.

But why is America, the birthplace of democracy, so close to following the lead of other countries that have recently destroyed it?

Don’t tell me about “economic anxiety.” That’s not what happened in Poland, which grew steadily through the financial crisis and its aftermath. And it’s not what happened here in 2016: Study after study has found that racial resentment, not economic distress, drove Trump voters.

The point is that we’re suffering from the same disease — white nationalism run wild — that has already effectively killed democracy in some other Western nations. And we’re very, very close to the point of no return.

--Paul Krugman

Friday, August 24, 2018

Milestone

Amazingly, to me at least, who only rises to extreme confidence once in a while, Ecology without Nature now has 1600 scholarly citations, and The Ecological Thought 1200. Hyperobjects is about to reach 1000. Which all means that fairly soon my stuff in general will have been cited 6000 times.

But the maddest thing that's ever happened remains the fact that in the first week when Realist Magic was published online (before the print edition showed up), it was downloaded 10 000 times.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Profesor Morton, What Is Your Job Like?

“You don't spell out the truth. You imply the truth. Spelling out the truth loses its essence and becomes ‘my’ truth or ‘your’ truth. By implying the truth, the truth does not become anyone's property.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Read This Now. Now. Read This Right the Fuck Now

Someone's doing their job, really really well.

https://nyti.ms/2mWMDT8

Saturday, July 28, 2018

What's Right with Boulder?

Everything else! Haha--I've just had one of the very best weeks of recent memory, connecting to my friends here, always good to do that physically. The altitude is mind-adjustingly extreme in the way I remember from having lived here for eight years. I'm very glad about that. California was lovely in its own ways--America is vast, folks who haven't been here or haven't been here a lot, or who have just been to one or two parts of it. But for some reason many of the closest friends ever have been from Boulder.  Is my psychoanalyst of 21 years my friend? Oh, sure, why not. He took a huge shine to Simon (9) who has been a total treat for me and everyone else who's been in his presence. Simon is one of the big reasons this trip has been amazing. My daughter Claire (14) is at a meditation camp in the mountains. I'll find out tomorrow whether it rained too much up there. Simon and I drove up to the highest road in America (well, the highest you can enjoy--another one, also in CO, is about 100' feet higher but you can't really stop and admire the way you can on this one), Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (it's part of highway 34). It's like Tibet up there, aka tundra and tiny alpine flowers, no trees, then no flowers, but lichens still. Amazing. We chanted the heart sutra in the ornate and magnificent shrine room at Karma Dzong (I like the old name). Alfalfa's proves to be a lovely shop, and now I can afford it, just about lolol. I crippled myself financially here when I walked there all the time for groceries (didn't have a car, it was the closest shop available). Zooming around hairpin bends (or whatever you like to call them, switchbacks or whatever) has been great too. Thanks everyone, see you soon!

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