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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ecology without Nature on the Wall

Outside 319 Scholes in Brooklyn, the digital art place. HT Greg Borenstein:





OOO Class 5: Withdrawal (MP3)



Unbelievably, and appropriately, the equipment malfunctioned! There was no internet, because of some malware in the server. Broken tools! The day explored withdrawal!

Future Talk in Sydney

In late August of this year, at NIEA:

Of Planet-Sense

My talk plays on the possibility that the phrase "sense of planet" is in fact a subjective genitive.

Even if humans are the only people on Earth, which now seems astonishingly unlikely, they act as the planet's sense organs insofar as they are its direct outgrowths, and insofar as sentience just is an "interobjective" system's emergence as information-for some "perceiver."

But Earth senses us in a far deeper and more disturbing way, since environmental awareness is predicated on an always-already. We are fearful that global warming has started only to the extent that we are no longer sure what the weather is telling us, because global warming has already started.

Unable to see it directly, we assess global warming insofar as it takes the measure of us. A tsunami assesses the fragility of a Japanese town. An earthquake probes the ability of humans and their equipment to resist the liquefaction of crust. A heatwave scans us with ultraviolet rays.

These largely harmful measurements direct our attention to human coexistence with other lifeforms inside a gigantic object that just is, yet is not reducible to, these lifeforms and ourselves.

The Anthropocene, the term for direct human intervention in geological time, is the ironic name for a moment at which the nonhuman is discerned to be inextricable from the human, a variation of the noir plot of the Oedipus story in which the measurer turns out to be the measured.

To understand the contemporary age then is to understand the form of the Oedipus story, namely, how we still remain within the confines of agricultural ritual, a plot that plots the world as graspable, technical object and horizon, a plot that eventually leads nowhere but to what I shall define precisely as a specific kind of doom.

What underlies sense of planet then is "planet-sense," experienced by humans as physical enmeshment in a trap that is by no means free, pleasant or utopian, precisely to the extent that it is a "global" awareness--but cognitively liberating nonetheless.



Romanticism 12: Coleridge (MP3)


A Blade Runner a day keeps the doctor away.

William Connolly on Melancholia

He is writing a book on fragility, which is of great interest to me, for whom fragility is an ontological category.



Nonhuman Turn Schedule PDF

You know if this isn't the event of the year I'll eat my hat.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tomorrow's OOO Grad Class

Finally we're ready for Harman. I think I got everyone into the zone. We shall see... The thing is, Graham's stuff is a deal more profound than one supposes when one hears "realism." And ontology has been off the menu for ages.

Last week's class was a highlight of my career. I found it scary. I got that speculative realism uncanny feeling.



Thai Temple Includes Neo, Batman

“Near the city of Chiang Rai, in northern Thailand, shines Wat Rong Khun, a Buddhist temple poised to become one of the most stunningly beautiful in the world.

Wat Rong Khun is rich with symbolism derived from Buddhist and Hindu traditions, as well as some more unorthodox sources. Inside, Wat Rong Khun contains the expected statues of the Buddha, but the Buddhist artist has also included images of Superman, Batman, and Neo from The Matrix who he believes further the Buddha's message. Kositpipat refers to the temple as an offering to Lord Buddha and believes the project will give him immortal life.” Huffington Post

Friday, April 27, 2012

Queer Ecology Revisited

An undergrad just wrote with a query about queer ecology. Always happy to help, I decided to post my response here.

One could think of queer theory as the exploration of how identity is not given, but rather performed.

Queer ecology simply sees this performance happening "below" the human level of meaning, at the level of the genome and other physical beings.

This is because, from an OOO standpoint, there is a rift between essence and appearance. This gives rise to identity as an illusion-like display that can't be pinned down to some sort of givenness.

What is called Nature just is the reduction of things to their givenness for humans. This reduction must be policed, since it is inherently spurious and unstable.

Romanticism 11: Kant, the Sublime, Nothingness

A Comment on Comments

I tend not to debate in comments sections anywhere. If you want to do that, or otherwise argue the toss, do come to one of my talks and we'll hash it out in public.



Boundary Issues

Several decades of Derrida followed by two glorious years of Harman have convinced me that boundaries in the ontic world are never thin and rigid, but always ambiguous, nay riddled with contradiction and anomalous entities.

"Alive" for instance means in part "to have an ambiguous boundary contested in many ways."

But since Sorites and Zeno's paradoxes apply to anything at all in ontic space, all boundaries whatsoever are problematic.

Did I say no boundaries? No. That would also be the metaphysics of presence--a One arbitrarily subdivided.

There are no (thin rigid) boundaries, and no not-boundaries. I argued this in Ecology without Nature and The Ecological Thought.



Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Boundary I Can Believe In

Luke writes: "Are there any boundaries for you that aren't arbitrary and metaphysical?"

I didn't say "metaphysical." I said "metaphysics of presence."

Anyway, yes, definitely: the ontological scission between essence and appearance. This cannot be located anywhere in ontically given spacetime, and so is not subject to the metaphysics of presence.



Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy

By Jon Cogburn, with essays by Levi and me. How to get it and what it's about.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Primatologist Reviews Chimpanzee

By Andrew Halloran.

Process and Sorites

David writes:

Hi Tim, so what is the Sorites problem for processes?

1) Processes are composed of ultimate temporal parts that are not processes.

2) Successive temporal combination of non-processural things never gets you a process.
So if pn is 's1+s2...sn is not a process', we have pn implies pn+1.

We start with with an ultimate part p1 (s1 is not a process) and we know by induction that this is true for all n.

On the face of it 1 and 2 are contraries. But isn't it open to the process philosopher to dig their heels in and just deny 1 - i.e. that processes are composed of things that are not processural?


Point (1) was not a statement I made. The point was that processes can be measured because they are ontically given. It doesn't matter to me what they are made of.

Never mind. Let's assume that processes are made of parts that are either temporal or not.

This makes things much worse for our process philosopher.


Either:
1) The components of processes are themselves process, which doesn't explain what processes are. Question begging.

2) These microprocesses are also subject to the Sorites. Pushing the problem back a stage doesn't get rid of it.

Or:
1) She has admitted that processes are not the basic constituent of reality.

2) She is no longer able to explain time, since the actual fundamental constituents do not have temporal parts and thus are instantaneous or eternal.

3) For the same reason, causality is no longer explicable.

But by far the most difficult obstacle is this one, no matter which way you slice it:

The fundamental ingredients are also subject to the Sorites problem. How many of them constitute a "heap" or indeed a process? Nothing has been achieved whatsoever.

Being subject to the Sorites happens if you are ontically given, not because you do or don't have temporal parts.

Monday, April 23, 2012

OOO Grad Class 4: Husserl, Heidegger, and the Descent into OOO





Some classes are very very good, for some reason. This was one of them. I was quite scared of OOO by the end, in a good way!

Romanticism 9: Austen and Wollstonecraft (MP3)

"Perspectivalism" Is the Metaphysics of Presence

One more thing about Shane's questions: his phrase "non-foundational perspectival" as in


...[D]oesn't it make sense to say that the debates over processes vs objects are in a sense undecidable, or that these determinations depend upon some sort of non-foundational perspectival selections, which need not be mutually exclusive?


Again, it's the process philosopher who sees this as undecidable, precisely because of a metaphysical assumption of what processes are, which we can detect in the use of "vs" in "processes vs objects." For me, it's not undecidable at all, because objects are not beings that are metaphysically present.

But more urgently, a perspectival determination, as far as I can tell, is another kind of foundationalism. It's saying that perspective is more real than what is perceived or perspectivized or whatever.

Thus the phrase "non-foundational perspectival" is akin to "square circle." Or saying "Overmining is the governing view of relationism."

Relationism, OOO and Sorites

In addition to my previous post, the same Sorites problem affects relationism, which is a metaphysics of presence insofar as it holds that relations are more real than the entities they instantiate.

Thus boundaries are a problem because my leg only exists because of a leg bone, which is connected to the hip bone, which is connected to the torso bone, which is connected to the human bone, which is connected to the ecosystem bone, which is connected to the Solar System bone, and so on. Where do you draw the line?

This problem goes away if relations are not ontologically deep. It's only a problem when we hold that the network of relations is more real than what appears in it--if in other words the network is a metaphysically present thing.

To assert this is to regress to structuralism. Structuralism is the most elegant relationism ever devised. Derrida was already past that. We must move beyond.

Temporal Parts, OOO and Sorites

Shane Denson writes on my Dark Ecology talk:

Very nice and to the point. Thanks for posting this. One question, though: how does the notion that ecological awareness consists in the realization of connectedness in a world in which "there are no clear boundaries" (as I believe you put it here) square with the ontology of objects, which, as I understand it, is an ontology of clear boundaries par excellence? (Please note: I'm genuinely interested in your answer to this, and I have no hidden agenda in asking.) It does seem, though, that a lot of the disagreements over processual or relational as opposed to object-oriented ontologies turns precisely on this question of whether entities are clearly parsed on a metaphysical level. Sometimes it seems that the debates turn to epistemological questions of whether we can see or know the world as having or not having clear boundaries around the objects that populate it, but it seems you are saying that our current ecological realizations, i.e. epistemological and/or affective events, are indeed indexed to an ontological situation in which a lack of clear boundaries obtains. Does this only apply to boundaries between human, animal, and other nonhuman agencies, or does it also apply to inter-object relations? If the latter, doesn't it make sense to say that the debates over processes vs objects are in a sense undecidable, or that these determinations depend on some sort of non-foundational perspectival selections, which need not be mutually exclusive? I'm just thinking through options here, and I'm really interested to hear your response. Also looking forward to hearing your talk at the Nonhuman Turn conference in Milwaukee!


Easy. The difference between OOO and process philosophies on this point resides in what is logically entailed by the metaphysics of presence that underwrites processes.

Process philosophies are faced with Sorites problems having to do with temporal parts. An ooze of process lava is made of temporal as well as spatial parts. The problem is what counts as a “present” versus a “past” one. Sorites problems are cousins of Zeno's paradox and have to do with subdividing beings—what constitutes a heap or in this case a process? Ten thousand grains of sand, yes; 9999, yes; and so on all the way down to one—so nothing constitutes a heap, or everything. Same with a process. Flow of lava at time a, time b, time delta a, etc. The “thin rigid boundary” is a real problem, entailed by the logic of processes.

Whereas OOO is precisely against the metaphysics of presence. Thus there is no problem whatsoever. Boundaries called “present” or “nature” are always totally arbitrary and metaphysical.

Shane's line of thinking is actually a pretty good symptom of the metaphysics of presence that underlies process philosophy—why for me it is a regression from, rather than progress beyond, Derrida. 

If you listen to my CU Boulder talk at The Shape of the I, you will hear some filling out of this argument.

This will be argued in Realist Magic.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Talk "Dark Ecology" at Activating the Medium



Short and sweet. What an incredible gift this evening was. I hold that art should be a little bit evil and this was it! Perfect way to start the Earth Day (un)celebration...

I ran my new line of argument—it seemed to go down okay. Nothing like as good as the music though. 

Happy Earth Day

I guess the main thing for me to do is to reflect on the brilliant aural assaults of last night, done in the name of dark ecology (and happily so I might add!).

Claire and I had to duck out early (sorry about that, Claire's 8 year old ears!). The two pieces we heard complemented one another perfectly. Andrea Williams's zoomorphic ocean of white noise and animal sounds conveyed, and then blocked, the illusion of being "in" an environment. Brilliant. While Pod Blotz's piece was a truly horrifying (in the best way) forcing of coexistence upon one. The photos of quartz and the sounds made me feel I was being pushed through metamorphic rocks.

Then there was the human, clad in wet rainbow shreds. Monstrous half illusory glimpses of an eye, some teeth. The music was like that too.



Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pod Blotz

Extreme environmental visuals. White quartz. Metamorphic. Extreme sound. Slightly evil. Good!



Activating the Medium

So touched to be here with the theme of dark ecology. Thanks to:

Andrea and Jim
23-5
SFAI
Art Practical



Me Talking at SF Art Institute

800 Chestnut St. In one hour.



An Awesome Prisoner's Dilemma Nailbiter

Prisoner's Dilemmas are crucial in an ecological age, because we can't get outside the system in which we make and exchange ecological values and beings. Watch and learn:

Buy My House Take 2

Our buyer had to back out--going through some personal stuff that made it impossible to secure a loan.

So we're back on the market! Country Club access with swimming pool, tennis, lake. Cul de sac. Very pretty large garden. Kids will love it.

Write to Martha Mansell: mmansell@golyon.com











Chimpanzee

I love chimps, always have, used to keep a scrapbook on them when I was eight. Just saw it today (the movie I mean, released today). Interesting and very very hi def. More on it soon.



Friday, April 20, 2012

Romanticism 8: Austen (MP3)



Jane Austen, anxiety, pain: fun for all the family. Inner kung fu.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

OMG Kevin O'Connor

Kevin O'Connor, a very talented guy, is crafting a performance piece with my help for a gallery in San Francisco fairly soon.

I'm so happy about it! It's about changing art, I love it. It's going to be ecological and it's going to be about inside and outside...

A Photon is Withdrawn from Itself

When you try to send it back in time to interfere with itself, the probability of success diminishes to zero the closer you get to possible interference.

For a long time I've held that quantum theory, despite its dominant correlationist interpretation, is deeply congruent with OOO. To "observe" or "measure" at that scale means "to deflect with another quantum." The quantum to be measured is withdrawn.

But this is an even tighter loop. Here a quantum is trying to interfere with itself.

That it can't do so resembles the ontological gap between an object and an intentional object (Husserl), or between an intentional object and an act that studies that object (Husserl), or between the I of enunciation and the I of the enunciated (Lacan).

Split objects.



Monday, April 16, 2012

OOO Class Online Chat

Duskin Drum, one of my beloved Ph.D. students, wants to incorporate an online chat function into the livestream. The best way to do this would be for auditors and students to use the SmartSite chat function, which I'll switch on in my own machine when I teach the class.

Vasiliev Theory

A complex but workable theory of time and space. HT Moses Boudourides.

OOO Class 3: Phenomenology and the Thing (Video, MP3)



Romanticism 6: Blake (MP3)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Blasted Thumbs

Yet again I accidentally deleted a response, this time from John:

Thanks, Tim. I'd say it's pretty obvious (to me at least) Marxism wouldn't be hurt by a little adjusting ...

And I'm guessing that if Marx were alive today and writing he wouldn't be some Pierre Menard, rewriting Capital ... he'd be writing a pretty different book.




Is Capital a Hyperobject?

John asks (see below). Yes of course. But you would have to adjust Marxism to count capital this way.



A Hypothesis

My respondent on Friday suggested that by not talking about capital I was discounting its all determining power, and perhaps also discounting Marx.

I gave some answers that addressed what I perceived to be a certain correlationism in the criticism.

At the end of my remarks I mentioned a kind of cynicism that is default in modernity. I have just now formulated a hypothesis that brings this into focus:

Like some forms of Christian fundamentalism, academic Marxism often thinks its enemy as more powerful than its hero. Just as fundamentalism is to this extent a form of Satanism, so this kind of Marxism is a form of capitalist ideology.

Attendant ramifications, such as reductive undermining and overmining, a certain objectifying materialism and so on, are also shared.

Discuss.



Harman on Modularity

I like this line:

"There is a certain modularity of philosophical insights that doesn’t hold for geometrical or arithmetical proofs, where any antecedent errors spoil everything else that comes later. Philosophy doesn’t work like that. You can think that the metaphysical underpinnings of Aristotle or Spinoza are rubbish, but still profit greatly from all that emanates from the supposed rubbish."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Celeste Langan at UC Davis on Monday

Celeste Langan is an Associate Professor in the English Department at UC Berkeley and Acting Director of the Townsend Center for the Humanities there.

She is chiefly a Romanticist, and even when she writes on and teaches materials relating to her two subspecialties, media theory and disability studies, she tends to begin by focusing on Romantic things.

In addition to having written a book on Wordsworth, Romantic Vagrancy, she has written several essays on media, including “Understanding Media in 1805,” “Pathologies of Communication from Coleridge to Schreber,” “Scotch Drink and Irish Harps: Mediations of the National Air,” “Medium Cool Romanticism,” and, with Maureen McLane, “The Medium of Romantic Poetry.”

Her presentation today, “Ambiguity and Neutrality Circa 1800,” is part of a larger work-in-progress called Post-Napoleonism: Imagining Sovereignty after 1799 (which she hopes to complete during next year’s sabbatical!).

Bhanu Kapil Decompresses

On The Shape of the I conference I'm at right now. She writes very fascinating novels and we share the goodness of teaching at Naropa, me having done it briefly once or twice, and her doing it a lot and deeply.

John Writes

And my clumsy migraine fingers deleted:

Tim, there's a complete translation of Moby Dick called Emoji Dick: http://www.emojidick.com/

It's also interesting because it was translated via Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

Just read Bhanu Kapil's blog on the CU conference. She, at least, was blown away.




Stick Some Electrodes into Your Brain and Feel Better

From CNN. Trepanning, a battery. It's interesting how Area 25, the part of the brain that seems to work with mood, is overactive when you are depressed. Too much work going on.

Majorana Fermion

It's a particle that is also its own anti-particle. Strangely. Just glimpsed.

Talking Emoji: OOO and Whimsy


While finishing Ecology without Nature I was playing around with an aesthetic I thought was utopian. It was a combination of irony and sentimentality (for want of a better word): empathetic irony maybe.

See the trouble with Nature is awfully largely an aesthetic problem, and that doesn't mean it's meaningless or insignificant. Nature means distance means standing reserve means domination means yonder means metaphysics of presence. Fields of wheat as far as the eye can see without a wind farm in sight. Without irony. Irony reduced to sheer cynical distance. You know: modernity.

I became interested in objects that are considered kitsch, i.e. the shit art of the other. Kitsch is always the kitsch of the other. Greasy, tactile, googly eyed.

Ian Bogost showed me how to use emoji on my iPhone last night and I think I'm in love. In Taiwan you see Buddhist shrines replete with Snoopy and Hello Kitty. Whimsy.

There's an interesting thing going on with language with emoji. You can use emoji to say something like a word. Or you can make a rebus like bee-leaf. Or you can just send a piece of cake to someone's phone. 

In Gulliver's Travels there's an island where philosophers, fed up with language, communicate with things. The trouble is, they need limitless sacks on their backs to have a basic conversation.

Those philosophers forgot irony, and indeed as an OOO-er I see irony as hard wired into the fabric of things, since there is a gap between appearance and essence. How a thing appears (for me, for a salt shaker) is never what it is. Irony is the aesthetic exploitation of a gap, and since causality is aesthetic, causality is ironic.

There is a certain kawaii aesthetic of empathetic cuteness with a lemon twist of irony in what I think is OOO. I think I found the utopian aesthetic I was after in Ecology without Nature, but it's a lot more than just human and a lot more than just political. It's ontological.

All this becoming-wolf, becoming-intense stuff, all the migraine inducing nihilism—doesn't it lack the rich irony of a rubber finger monster? Especially when that finger monster is on the kitchen shrine of the most serious Buddhist I know, my hosts here in Boulder, Alan and Aly?

And isn't that lack of irony and empathy combined a symptom that these sorts of thinking are still within modernity? Which created the Anthropocene?

Isn't that one reason why Expressionism (à la Ensor) still has some ecological political mileage in it: because it's horrifying and funny?

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Actual Buddhist Responds to Žižek

Ethan Nichtern that is. I might go further and ask, perhaps rhetorically, what the fuck is wrong with doing (what Žižek might regard as) absolutely nothing at all?

Thanks to Nathan Rosquist. 

War and Objects and Benjamin

Check this sentence out by Walter Benjamin: “The Storyteller” in Illuminations: “A generation that had gone to school on a horse-drawn streetcar now stood under the open sky in a countryside in which nothing remained unchanged but the clouds, and beneath these clouds, in a field of force of destructive torrents and explosions, was the tiny, fragile human body.”

Bogost on the New Aesthetic

Thanks to Greg Borenstein I know about this, and now Ian has written this really good piece on it.

The Shape of the I: OOO, Ecology, Marx (MP3s)



Thanks so much to my excellent respondent, Margaret Ronda, for encouraging the discussion that ensued in a very energetic Q&A. Classic CU Boulder. Oh god I miss it.

Inducted into the Ways of Texas

Mike Smith, poet and manager of the Trident coffee house, fellow Buddhist and host, has given me a quick training, as someone born in Houston. The look was attained by accidentally stepping on a piece of gravel:





The Old House

On Manhattan
Drive in Boulder. I'm so in the bardo right now.












Panel Begins Today at 2pm

I told one person that it was 2.30: sorry about that! Norlin Library Fifth floor.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In Boulder

This really is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and also a very sacred place. The feeling is like being enveloped by a high frequency note. If you haven't ever come here you should do so as soon as possible. I lived here eight years and my wife came from Idaho Springs.



Limoges Talk

Looks like I'll be doing it in the second week of September at a fascinating sounding event on the Anthropocene. I'll post more when it becomes clearer.



Romanticism 5: Blake (MP3)



Materialism, nihilism, scientism!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mind as Object 2

All you guys who love to quote HHDL on empty buckets listen up. Compared with this that is just a bad photocopy of emptiness:

What should we “do” with the mind in meditation? Nothing at all.

Just leave it, simply, as it is.

One master described meditation as “mind, suspended in space, nowhere.”




The Shape of the I (Boulder, Friday and Saturday)

SHAPE OF THE I SCHEDULE
6 Panels: 1 ½ hours each: ALL PANELS IN BRITISH AND IRISH STUDIES ROOM, 5TH FLOOR NORLIN LIBRARY, CU BOULDER

Friday:

2-3:30: Panel 1: Tim Morton, Margaret Ronda, Vanessa Place, Patrick Greaney
4-5:30: Panel 2: Kent Puckett, Bhanu Kapil, Cheryl Higashida, Jennifer Pap, Francisco Aragon

DINNER BREAK
VIDEO/PERFORMANCE NIGHT 7:30-9: OLD MAIN AUDITORIUM
Video Presentation by Christina Battle and Jeanne Liotta, Sound Performance by Mark Amerika, Performances by Vanessa Place and Roberto Tejada

Saturday 

9:30-11: Panel 3: Robin Hemley, Noah Eli Gordon, Lia Purpura, Lawrence Hergott, William Kuskin
11:30-1: Panel 4: Erina Duganne, Philip Joseph, Laura Winkiel, Karen Jacobs
LUNCH
2:00-3:30 Panel 5: Marcia Douglas, Adam Bradley, Andy Fitch, Mathias Svalina
4:00-5:30: Panel 6: Petra Kuppers, Brian Teare, Karla Kelsey, Mary Klages, Daniele Pafunda

DINNER BREAK

8-10 COUNTERPATH READING: Counterpath 613 22nd St., Denver, CO
            Readings By
            Robin Hemley
            Noah Eli Gordon
Lia Purpura
Margaret Ronda
Francisco Aragon
Bhanu Kapil      
Brian Teare
Andy Fitch
Marcia Douglas

The Clobber Tunnel

Any transitional state is a bardo in which you experience your basic confusion quite intensely. There have been moments this week during which I've felt I was walking through a car wash of my karma, with boots and boxing gloves on sticks instead of brushes and water. A tunnel full of clobbering.

We seem to have sold the house and gotten the new one, but it's far from over. If Rice wasn't helping me there would be no way I could get out of this "Home by the Sea." The cost of living here in Cali is such that it's awesome if you're a millionaire communist. Everyone else is treading water. Or drowning.

Here is an interesting fact. If the quality of a home priced x in Cali is x, that of the same priced home in Houston is 3x.



Three Books

Just showed up:

My MFA Writing student Megan Kaminski's Desiring Map.
Karen Thornber's Ecoambiguity.
Ian Bogost's Alien Phenomenology, courtesy of the press.

Megan's and Karen's very nicely inscribed.



Angie and Graham

I believe my Ph.D. student Angie was studying with Graham today. I wonder how it went.



Monday, April 9, 2012

SF Sound Art Talk

On April 21 at 8pm. Details of the event, which seems wonderful, here.



OOO Class 2: Correlationism (Video, MP3)

Me (far right) and the Gang Reading the First Critique






I loved this class, I really did. The best moment perhaps was when Sarah Juliet Lauro appeared to be clutching her chest as if intuiting the full scope of the vertigo of SR. It was also just lovely to teach Kant. “Dope.” Scooby Doo faces. And a wonderful presentation by Michael Martel.

I also kind of like the New Aesthetic look of the pixelated me, now that UStream seems to have been altered (by a relationship with Facebook?). Sorry about the ads—does anyone have a spare ten grand so I can end them?

Romanticism 4: Blake (MP3)

Talking at the American Anthropological Association

If I had my time again I might have been an anthropologist. I'm giving this talk at the annual meeting in November:

Interobjective Mind

Ecological mind is no more and no less than the coexistence of beings and the networks of affiliation between them. The simplicity of this idea accords with contemporary "enactive" theories of mind, in which mind is distributed among relata such as neurons, the physical body, and the environment, rather than being a "thing" that can be located "in" the brain.

What is called "intersubjectivity" is a small region of a much larger space of "interobjectivity." This space includes nonhuman beings such as animals and even nonsentient beings such as plants--and even nonlife such as stones and clouds.

In this paper I shall be delineating the ways in which the emerging philosophy movement called object-oriented ontology allows us to think mind in a way that is deeply congruent with ecological awareness, and with traditional human societies.

OOO as First Philosophy

John asks:

I guess what I'm asking, Tim, Ted, is this: is OOO a "first philosophy" with or ithout a "second philosophy", so to speak? Is it a "difference that makes a difference"?


For shizzle John. It explains why things exist and how they exist, what causality is and so on.




Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mind as Object

"We have been taught to spend our lives chasing our thoughts and projections. Even when the “mind” is talked about, it is only thoughts and emotions that are referred to; and when our researchers study what they imagine to be the mind, they look only at its projections. No one ever really looks into the mind itself, the ground from which all these expressions arise; and this has tragic consequences."
Sogyal Rinpoche



More on OOO and Commodity Fetishism

Okay, I'm going to keep up my Marxist critique of this Marxist critique of OOO this way: the accusation that talking about hammers is fetishism is based on a kind of Romanticism, though I hesitate to use that term. Let's call it a narrative of authenticity. Some things are more real than others, namely (in this case) praxis, which has to do with humans.

What happened to the Lacanian Marxist view that humans and humanism are part of the problem, not the solution? Why this anthropocentric, eighteenth-century view of an intrinsic humanity (praxis) that is distorted by capital? Isn't that what Marx was combating, in the very place of his critique of fetishism?

So again, theologians, I accuse you of being the fetishists here. You attribute some special godlike power to human agency and you see the problem as the distortion of this power by capital. This is, on Marxism's own terms, just regression to Enlightenment philosophy, that is, capitalist ideology.

A Word on Commodity Fetishism and OOO

I see my independent study student Jordan's piece on Marx and OOO is doing the rounds on Facebook today. It's quite a boring line against OOO from a certain kind of theology, I mean academic Marxism, to accuse us of commodity fetishism.

Having read all three volumes of Capital, and as a student of Terry Eagleton, forgive me while I quote chapter and verse here.

Commodity fetishism has to do with (false) ABSTRACTION, not (false) concretion. It's part of Capital 1 that everyone, even Derrida, misreads. The part about the table. It says that in capitalism, the table spins thoughts out of its wooden brain, rather than dancing as in a seance. It doesn't move of its own accord, is the point. It tells you about its value as not-a-table, i.e. as a commodity.

In capitalism, it is as if there is this abstract thing called THE commodity, which undermines and overmines (to use our lingo) actual humans, hammers and houses. 

There is no earthly reason why OOO would not be compatible with Marxism. Indeed, it puts Marxism's concern about the reduction (undermining) of humans into breaths and living space (again, Capital 1) on a very secure ontological footing.

To accuse us of fetishism because we talk about hammers just isn't Marxism. Thus the accusation that we are commodity fetishists is, in the immortal words of physicist Wolfgang Pauli, not even wrong.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

SF Dark Ecology Sound Art

I've been invited and the people putting it together are into my stuff. I'm definitely going, in the last two weeks of April.



Friday, April 6, 2012

Closing House Tomorrow

If you want to buy our house in Davis you have until tomorrow to make a good offer. We have a good one so you have to top it if you want it. Contact Martha Mansell at Lyon Real Estate.



Romanticism 3: Blake (MP3)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Not Too Late to Sign up for the First OOO Course on Earth

You really can, you know. You can easily watch the first class, then catch up quite quickly.

Four Offers Already

If you want me house hurry up, it's had four offers since it was listed a couple days ago...



Oh Yes

Robert Darnton is an excellent eighteenth-century historian:

American digital public library promised for 2013
Two million books will be available in an online digital library to rival Google's collection, according to Professor Robert Darnton, who promised the new database would overcome copyright hurdles by next year


Alison Flood
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 April 2012 13.04 EDT

Coming to a screen near you? … A man in a library in Michigan. Photograph: Mandi Wright/AP
An American digital public library of over two million books will be in place by next April, according to scholar, author and Harvard University librarian Robert Darnton.

Professor Darnton, speaking at Columbia Law School earlier this week, made the public promise that the Digital Public Library of America, a non-profit initiative first dreamed up in October 2010, "will be up and running by April 2013, and its initial holdings will include at least two million books in the public domain accompanied by a dazzling array of special collections far richer than anything available through Google".

With funding from the Sloan Foundation and Arcadia Fund , the Digital Public Library of America counts on its steering committee, a mix of non-profit and foundation leaders, government officials and academic and public library directors.

Darnton, who represents Harvard, said that the idea behind the library is to make America's "cultural heritage accessible, free of charge, to all of our countrymen and women, in fact to everyone in the world".

Although these plans have a "utopian ring" to them, Darnton confessed to "some sympathy" with utopianism when speaking at Columbia. "It challenges the assumption that the way things are is the way they have to be and that the everyday, workaday world is firmly fixed in what we take to be reality. History shows that things can fall apart, sometimes in a way that releases utopian energy."

The DPLA steering committee is currently wrestling with the issue of copyright – the same problem which Google ran into over its controversial plans to digitise millions of books for Google Book Search, eventually getting sued by authors and publishers for infringement.

Google Book Search was "originally … a great idea", said Darnton. "Thanks to its technological wizardry, its energy, its wealth, and its sheer chutzpah, Google set out to digitise all the books in the world's greatest research libraries." But then the search engine "stepped over the line that divided books in the public domain from copyrighted books".

The lessons to be learned from Google's "failed … attempt" are that it is possible to build a huge digital library, but that "such a library should be designed and run for the public good", said Darnton.

The DPLA, a non-profit organisation "devoted to the public good", must accommodate "the legitimate interests of the book industry" as it seeks to include books covered by copyright in its collection while avoiding "ruinous litigation". His own suggestion was to steer clear of books which have just been published, instead creating "a moving wall" of five or 10 years between the library's collection and books which are in print, which would advance a year at a time. "Most books cease to sell after a few weeks, and their potential to produce revenue dries up completely within a few years," he said. "The rare book that maintains its commercial value over a long time could be excluded from the DPLA by an opt-out arrangement with the publisher and author. Far from threatening the economic interests of rights holders, the DPLA might in this way win their cooperation."

Darnton finished by calling on his listeners not to let "concern with legal entanglements … blind us to the utopian energy that has driven democratisation from the time of the Founding Fathers".

"Given the opportunity, authors and publishers and readers of all kinds will rally to the cause," he said. "Their commitment can fuel the other force that shaped the Republic from its beginning. I mean the pragmatic, can-do spirit that actually gets things done. Therefore, I would like to conclude with a promise. We will raise the funds; we will design the technology; we will organise the administration; we will even … work through the legal problems; and we will get the DPLA up and running by April 2013."

They Can't Help Themselves, Can They?

The GOP, trying to explain away misogyny by pulling out another weird speciesist comment that ramps up the misogyny.

My Favorite Pyschological State!

From the New York Times:

The way we negotiate anxiety plays no small part in shaping our lives and character. 

And yet, historically speaking, the lovers of wisdom, the philosophers, have all but repressed thinking about that amorphous feeling that haunts many of us hour by hour, and day by day.

The 19th-century philosopher-theologian Soren Kierkegaard stands as a striking exception to this rule.

It was because of this virtuoso of the inner life that other members of the Socrates guild, such as Heidegger and Sartre, could begin to philosophize about angst.

Though he was a genius of the intellectual high wire, Kierkegaard was a philosopher who wrote from experience.

And that experience included considerable acquaintance with the chronic, disquieting feeling that something not so good was about to happen.

In one journal entry, he wrote, "All existence makes me anxious, from the smallest fly to the mysteries of the Incarnation; the whole thing is inexplicable, I most of all; to me all existence is infected, I most of all. My distress is enormous, boundless; no one knows it except God in heaven, and he will not console me...."

Is there any doubt that were he alive today he would be supplied with a refillable prescription for Xanax?

On virtually every third page of Kierkegaard's authorship some note about angst is scrawled.

But the adytum of Kierkegaard's understanding of anxiety is located in his work "The Concept of Anxiety" -- a book at once so profound and byzantine that it seems to aim at evoking the very feeling it dissects.

Perhaps more than any other philosopher, Kierkegaard reflected on the question of how to communicate the truths that we live by -- that is the truths about ethics and religion.



Writing in "The Concept of Anxiety" under the guise of Vigilius Haufniensis (watchman of the harbor), Kierkegaard observes that anxiety "is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite."

He continues, "Anxiety is a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy," a simultaneous feeling of attraction and repulsion. 

Kierkegaard explains: "In observing children, one will discover this anxiety intimated more particularly as a seeking for the adventurous, the monstrous, and the enigmatic."

Deeper into this text, it becomes plain that the ledge that we both want and do not want to look over runs along the abyss of our own possibilities.

In some of his most immortal lines, the watchman of the inner world notes:  "Anxiety may be compared with dizziness. He whose eye happens to look down into the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eyes as in the abyss . . . Hence, anxiety is the dizziness of freedom." ("The Concept of Anxiety")

Many philosophers treat emotions as though they were merely an impediment to reason, but for Kierkegaard there is a cognitive component to angst.

It is in our anxiety that we come to understand feelingly that we are free, that the possibilities are endless, we can do what we want -- jump off the cliff or, in my case, perhaps one day go into the class I teach and, like Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, say absolutely nothing.

Inquiries about our inner lives and emotions are more complicated than conversing about things in the external world.

We can triangulate on objects like rocks, examine them together with various senses and from different perspectives.



Writing in different key, Kierkegaard registered this journal entry: "Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world,  forgotten by God, overlooked among the millions and millions in this enormous household. A person keeps this anxiety at a distance by looking at the many round about who are related to him as kin and friends, but the anxiety is still there."

In something approaching a Freudian notion of defense mechanisms, Kierkegaard argues that we have ways of trying to deflect and defang our anxieties.

I might remind myself that there were many friends at the New Year's Day brunch and that I have the love and support of my family, but assurances or no, I still harbor that deep anxiety about being all alone.

In the age of Big Pharma, we have, of course come to medicalize such thoughts -- not to mention just about every other whim and pang.

When I once confided with a physician friend that one of my children seemed to overheat with anxiety around tests, he smiled kindly and literally assured, "No need to worry about that, we have a cure for anxiety today."

On current reckoning, anxiety is a symptom, a problem, but Kierkegaard insists, "Only a prosaic stupidity maintains that this (anxiety) is a disorganization."

And again, if a "speaker maintains that the great thing about him is that he has never been in anxiety, I will gladly provide him with my explanation: that is because he is very spiritless. "

Kierkegaard understood that anxiety can ignite all kinds of transgressions and maladaptive behaviors -- drinking, carousing, obsessions with work, you name it. We will do most anything to steady ourselves from the dizzying feeling that can take almost anything as its object.

However, Kierkegaard also believed that, "Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate."



Sometimes anxiety is cast as a teacher, and at others, a form of surgery.

The prescription in "The Concept of Anxiety" and other texts is that if we can, as the Buddhists say, "stay with the feeling" of anxiety, it will spirit away our finite concerns and educate us as to who we really are,

"Then the assaults of anxiety, even though they be terrifying, will not be such that he flees from them."

According to Kierkegaard's analysis, anxiety like nothing else brings home the lesson that I cannot look to others, to the crowd, when I want to measure my progress in becoming a full human being.

But this, of course, is not the counsel you are likely to hear these days at the mental health clinic.

IMPACT

My piece for the UK art zine Jotta, which arrived, so beautifully produced and wrapped, this morning.

Impact
Tim Morton

Like its predecessors, excellence, interdisciplinarity, and sustainability, impact is now a word of which administrators are overly fond. Like these other words, impact appears to be a transparent gel of indeterminate chemistry. The gel sits on my bathroom shelf and every time I need to impress someone, I tousle my hair with impact. The gel may also be used as a poor substitute for coarse cut marmalade though. There's nothing quite like reading the morning news on my iPad with my teeth coated with a sticky layer of impact. Moving further back in my mouth, I recall how my wisdom teeth did it to my jawbone.

In short, the bureaucratic use of impact is just another way to say: “We have no idea what you're doing, and you must keep doing it, only better. To wit, you are hereby required to use impact at least three times in your grant proposal.”

Excellence was postmodern styling mousse, sharply perfumed yet curiously flavorless and disconcertingly soft when placed between meringues. Excellence was individualistic and iridescent. Pimp my excellence. Interdisciplinarity was far more collective, like a brown paper parcel that consisted of smaller brown paper parcels ad infinitum. Interdisciplinarity was Californian: it had something to do with groups of people coming together to do something or other. At a stretch it could mean turning 180 degrees and reading a book on the shelf opposite the one you normally look at, or in those far off days, surfing the “internet.”

Sustainability was where things got a little bit ecological. You are smoking a cigarette, but is that sustainable? You are staring horrified into the mirror, seeing only a tattered clown who never truly loved, but how do you sustain this vision? Sustainability was, if I recall, where the rubber met the road. “Where the rubber meets the road” was itself where the rubber made significant contact with the road, or should we now say impact.

Yes we should. Impact is what a football does when it really hurts you. Impact is that fist coming down on the table in the unforgettable Government ad of the 1980s: “Think BIKE!” Impact doesn't care about sustainability, or excellence. Interdisciplinarity is for wimps. Knowledge should be like Doctor Johnson's boot the moment it made contact with the stone, refuting Berkeley with a loud click. Impact is the first punk bureaucratic term and we should cherish its arrival. I don't think.





Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Print Your Own Robot in Ten Years

From a team in Virginia.

Essay on Cities as Hyperobjects

I just finished it. It came out of a talk I gave last year--I subbed for Mike Davis who was sick and the hosts really liked it.



Romanticism 2: Blake (MP3)

Uncanny Hotel: Oh, It's My House

Selling one's house makes you realize that it was never yours. It's like realizing that you were always already living in a hotel. Paging Dylan Trigg: it's a weird, uncanny feeling. It was so overwhelming last night I got quite depressed and put on Star Trek: Next Generation, always a sign of depression for me. I couldn't even watch that!

Unheimlich means un-homelike.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Not Grass Valley

Thanks to a comment on the previous post on Toni Basil's video, I've been able to eliminate the Grass Valley video switcher of 1969—too primitive. What we're looking for is a computer platform that would be able to blend colors over time. Pretty much everything else can be explained by simple color separation overlay. It seems clear that the technology used already includes SMPTE time codes.

OOO Class 1 (Embedded Video and MP3)






Part 2

OOO Class Auditing Progress

This is going to be the biggest grad class since I taught cultural studies at NYU in 1994! I'm happy to keep adding people if you are interested. Back in 94 I had 100 grad students, many of them standing or sitting in the aisles. Quite frankly it was one reason I didn't continue working there. The then dean of the humanities thought cultural studies was big trouble and it didn't help that his mortal enemy, the dean of social sciences, thought my class was the most popular in the humanities that year (she was correct).

That Toni Basil Video

Thanks guys but I already know about color separation overlay (“chroma key”). What I want to know is, what is the computer platform that is producing the colors and other graphics in the videos (see the previous post)?

Help Me Write My Nonhuman Turn Talk

What video effects platform was Toni Basil using when she produced the videos for "Once in a Lifetime" and "Crosseyed and Painless" (Talking Heads)? This would be 1979-1980.



Romanticism 1 (MP3)

A new term, a new class!

Bare Essentials

Just wrote my piece for the Australian nature magazine bare essentials. I got bareness in somehow. Twenty minutes, 1000 words. They are doing a thing on The Ecological Thought.



Sunday, April 1, 2012

Audit My OOO Class

If you want to, just drop me a line with your email address and I'll take it from there. Starts tomorrow. Last class at UCD! OOO!

Climate Control

Everywhere has a climate. There's no escape. Cali is very soft and sweet but the dryness plays havoc with my sinuses and skin. Californians look at me funny like I have some disease when I say I'm moving to Houston. When I was there my sinus pain evaporated.
Also, my debt will evaporate. I come from a not rich family (to say the least, mostly grew up on welfare). To enjoy Cali to the max it's best to be earning over $500 000. Living without support from family below that level seems to suck. If you think there's much difference on that score between a poor grad student and a not too badly off professor, think again. That's the trouble with class, it's a great divider. There's a distinguished prof coming to UCD who can't even sell his house elsewhere in Cali as it's so upside down.

Harman's Review of Garcia's OOO

In Continent.



Philosopher Realtor

This agent I'm working with is a philosophy student who became a lawyer. Quite unusual for a realtor. It's the first time I've ever given one of my books to someone in that profession.