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

Friday, October 31, 2014

You Made Me Realise

The essay is a close reading of this.




Well, actually, more like this one:

Beauty Is Death

First few paragraphs of me new essay:

Beauty Is Death
Timothy Morton

I base this essay on Kant's “Analytic of the Beautiful,” the first part of his Critique of Judgment. In the introduction to the Critique of Judgment, Kant outlines the three basic properties of the beauty experience in a sentence whose twists and turns, and mirror-like inversions, are a masterpiece of hiding something in plain sight:

  • That object the form of which (not the material aspect of its representation, as sensation) in mere reflection on it (without any intention of acquiring a concept from it) is judged as the ground of a pleasure in the representation of such an object—with its representation this pleasure is also judged to be necessarily combined, consequently not merely for the subject who apprehends this form but for everyone who judges at all. The object is then called beautiful.


In this sentence is the key to the threefold Kantian theory of beauty. It is nonconceptual: when I try to isolate what is beautiful either in the object or in my experience of it, I can't grasp it. First, beauty gives me the feel of thinking, in a paradoxical membrane between what Kant calls pure reason and what he calls practical reason. This feel is not directed at a particular object of thought, but is rather directed by thought at itself, in a loop that Kant here calls “mere reflection.” Secondly, beauty is virtual. It is as if the feel of thinking reveals something in the object itself, as if I were magically capable of grasping the ungraspable thing-in-itself, what in the thing is distinctly itself, not its data, its phenomena. I see a duck: the duck's wings and feet are not the duck, yet they are part of the duck. I can't grasp the duck as such. But in the beauty experience, it is as if I am able to touch the unicity of a thing itself, by analogy with the way I can feel thinking, or reason, as an indivisible quantum. Secondly, the beauty experience is universalizable—be careful to see the “izable” suffix here, because it means that this universality is non-coercive. I feel like putting speakers on the Empire State Building so that everyone can hear this beautiful tune. But I shan't, because the coercion would ruin the beauty experience. In this respect, beauty vividly shows me the rush of cognition, and the nonviolence of democracy (pure and practical reason), in a strange mixture.

An analogy might be love. When I love someone, it is as if I have always loved them, that they were destined for me, from beginningless time. I feel this vividly even though I know very well that we just met last Thursday. It is as if cognition doesn't spoil beauty. I can know everything about the historical, social, economic and ecological (and geological, even) context of a poem—and it's still beautiful. Contextualization doesn't destroy it, despite the intentions of some forms of contextualism, which are to demystify beauty. The mystery remains, indestructible.

Moreover, the beauty experience is an attunement (German, Stimmung). The beauty experience tunes up my cognition and my feeling of freedom.

But what is Kant hiding? Kant is hiding how, in order for this experience to happen, there is always already an object, not related to me at all, an object that doesn't depend on my transcendental subjective ability to turn on the lights and see it, or think it. This object is emanating a force field that holds me in its tractor beam. The object tunes me. My cognitive tune-up is possible because there is already a tractor beam, described by some philosophy as givenness.

The object compels me, just this object, this painting. This object is positively tricksterish, as in the culture of a Paleolithic human, insofar as it is vivid and real yet ungraspable. Its appearance is itself, and not itself, at the very same time. It is as if Kant, the gatekeeper of modernity, one of the thinkers who allows humans to do anything to anything because things are just mirrors of (human) thought and desire—the Kant whom Lacan pairs with the Marqus de Sade—has somehow discovered a tiny place in the human universe that is decidedly shamanic.

Why? Because Kant was obsessed with mesmerism, animal magnetism: the idea that objects emanate energy fields, whether they are living or non-living. The bowdlerized child of mesmerism is hypnotism and telepathy. The bowdlerized child of this bowdlerization is the Freudian psyche. Freud himself was also fascinated by the paranormal, a physical yet “impossible” realm, impossible if all there can be is only (gross) body and (pure) mind. But the very experience of beauty shows me that there is at least a membrane between body and mind, a membrane that some cultures (Chinese, Indian, Tibetan and so on) are happy to call the subtle body. This kind of body is in me but it isn't me, yet it has sensations, moods, feelings. It is accessed in yoga, in “spiritual” or religious experiences that are idealized or demonized (or just plain old taboo), and in the “paranormal.” This paranormal—the experience of a non-agricultural human—is what is discovered at the very start of modernity with its eventual global warming and mass extinction. Discovered, and repressed, hidden away at birth.

"I"m Not a Scientist"

Hahahahaha

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Brilliance of Phenomena versus Ego

People are usually very nervous about fully experiencing the bright and colorful world. Nobody can see this level of relative truth without having cut through all the aspects of ego, because there is still a little attachment. People may see blue as blue, but at the same time, they use that to reinforce their idea of how blue affects their state of mind. Whether they regard things as powerful, good, nice, or threatening, there are always psychological implications behind the colors, forms, noises, and physical sensations they perceive. There is always some implication behind the whole thing. So the relative truth, is very difficult to experience fully, although it is very ordinary. --Trungpa Rinpoche

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Best Eco Anthem

Well, this pretty much sums it totally up, doesn't it?

And it has nothing to do with apocalypse. And yet...the intensity...

I always liked how the word “emergency” sounds like “emerge and see.”


We Are Undead

Other scholars tune in to the fact that species is not metaphysically present at all, but rather an uncanny awareness that despite my conscious intentions and my tiny meaningless actions, I am part of a zombie that just functions (at least at this point) according to long established algorithmic procedures.


Ecology and Philosophy

I'm teaching this graduate class next term. 


ENGL 591
Ecology and Philosophy
Timothy Morton

The current ecological crisis (maybe “crisis” is far too limited a term) means that humans are undergoing an upgrade in how they think and feel about nonhuman beings. An upgrade, whether they like it or not, and whether they are aware of it or not: even Rush Limbaugh needs to wear sunscreen.

The crisis in ecological awareness is thus also a crisis in philosophy. For the last two hundred years, a very interesting movement and counter-movement has evolved within philosophy. This dynamic is about how we allow lifeforms into thought, into our ethical and political concern, and into social space.

Furthermore, it's quite clear that we live in a set of overlapping, often contradictory, philosophies embodied in fields, food, energy, the way we talk to cats, how we make art and what we do (or don't do) about toilets, meat, and ice (and so on). These embodied philosophies make up a 12 000-year pattern.

Outcomes:
This class will complicate and clarify your ability to engage with nonhuman beings.
You will improve your ability to think and reflect, and allow yourself to be wrong, or puzzled, or curious.

You will understand a living tradition that deeply affects the biosphere, of which theory is a somewhat narrow bandwidth. And make ideas about what to do about it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Climate Depression / Eco-Therapy

First, learn about climate depression.

Then here is ecotherapy.

Another IPCC Anthem

Play it loud


Anthem of the Intra-Planetary Concerned Critters

One of them, anyway. Turn it loud.


How the IPCC Conducts Itself

The basics:

This website says that you should say FUCK in capital letters. Like THIS PLANET IS FUCKED.

I get the article's main point about depression, biospheric depression. I suffer from depression, I get it.

Depression is a freakin trap, ladies and gentlemen.

Just ask someone who suffers from clinical depression, for reals.

You shouldn't put that on other people by shouting FUCK.

The trouble is, scientists, you are indeed pushing dogma here. Sorry, but you are. It's not because of the science, but because of the attitude (scientism). The anti-global warming public sees the threat. Sorry, but it's true. You are trying to force them to change their belief.

The mixture of “We're not sure, this is just statistics, 95% accurate etc” plus scientistic table thumping, now with FUCK to add to the mix, is a killer.

Just ask anyone who knows anything about art. Anyone.

The point is to amaze people. To assume you're right. To speak from a warrior position of total outrageous confidence. You don't need to say FUCK. You just need to blow people's mind.

It's only tricky if you need to find the inspiration. But it's coming from a place of devotion and passion, not aggression.

This planet has had enough human aggression.

No FUCKS.

IPCC: The Rules

The Intra-Planetary Concerned Critters abide by the following rules, when they hold press conferences in tandem with the official IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

The initial tasks for the IPCC will be a series of press conferences, just like the IPCC hold. 

At these press conferences, possibly held in the lobbies of the places where the IPCC is holding theirs, the following will be the case: 

Anyone can be on the IPCC panel. Philosophers, artists, scientists, normal people, anyone. 

There can be many IPCCs. 

Members of the IPCC wear animal hats. The human face should be visible and audible but other lifeforms should be present in some way. 

The sillier the hat, the better. The Council of All Beings is a Deep Ecology practice created by Joanna Macy. One makes an animal mask and speaks to the other animal mask wearers about the pain of the planet. This is very moving but it's preaching to the choir. And it needs a bit of humor. 

Enough with the apocalypse already! 

Okay, so here are the rules I've been drawing up. Feel free to discuss and modify them here. 

1. Keep it as gentle as possible. That doesn't mean you can't be outrageous. On a meek platform, be perky, outrageous and inscrutable. Aggression and shouting facts won't work and will deplete your mojo.

2. The main thing is to amaze, bedazzle and otherwise be miraculous.

3. Don't argue. You are not trying to persuade people, you are trying to instill a sense of wonderment, laughter, surprise and compassion.

4. Comedy is deeper than tragedy. You can be tragic but within a more profound comic frame. Don't fan the flames of doom!

5. You are not trying to stop the end of the world. It has already ended. Instead, work with the surprise, uncanniness and ultimately relief that "we are already dead."

6. Try to speak as your chosen lifeform as much as you can but you can always break out of role. This is silly, confusing and fun.

7. Be a trickster. 
Your view: we never left the Paleolithic, as human bodies and as anxious beings who can be scared and paranoid and hysterical with laughter. This there is no need to return anywhere or progress into the future. All we have to do is notice where we are really at. 

8. If someone in the audience challenges you don't fight them. Join them. Admit as much as you can the silliness of the situation and agree with their ridicule. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Extinction Marathon

This is part of my contribution to Hans Ulrich Obrist's brain child at the Serpentine, an event featuring all kinds of people including Yoko Ono.

Ragnarok with Me

Jón Gnarr told me this fascinating thing:

When Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent, stops sucking its own tail, this is the beginning of Ragnarok, the apocalyptic battle.

Agrilogistics has been a constant process of trying to un-loop the loop form of things.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

The IPCC

This is the first communication of the Intra-Planetary Concerned Critters.

If you wish to join us, link to this post.

More soon.

Snaggle snaggle



Those Smelters

In fact, Oddný and Björk, so inspiring was your practice and your ideas about all that, they're going straight in Dark Ecology, now. I knew there was a reason not to have sent it to Columbia yet!

Náttúra.info

Oddný also edits this ecology website, oh yes indeedy. She did a whole lot of work with Björk after the big financial collapse, that hurt Iceland so badly, work to do with small, good-news start-ups that sounds a lot like my realm of toys. And have to do with ecology.

You don't know the realm of toys? You have to wait for Dark Ecology!

Congratulations Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir

You are a genius, I just met you, and you just won the European Union Prize for Literature.

Student of Derrida, dope Marxist, awesome philosopher, yes.

Now kids in presses, let's start translating her, yeah? She has a lot of books!

Dialectical Materialism 2.0

Hey I'd agree with that sentence a bit more if it was formulated thus:

Reality is determined by economic relations between all beings

Wanna play, Marxism?

Personally I think maybe Marxism is only possible if the to-come communism includes lemons, tidal waves and Icelandic moss in the collective.

Materialisms

So, Slavoj Žižek is having a go at the new materialists, and I'm being banned from cultural Marxist journals because I say words like “species” like Dipesh Chakrabarty, with whom I moan a bit about this state of affairs. Thanks for noticing at least!

“Many of these new materialists are my friends,” as Treebeard says. Poor Jane!

The replacement for the bad bad speculative stuff, as we learn from the official organ of cultural critique, is dialectical materialism. Who knew? What an incredible surprise.

Cultural Marxism, as the Critical Inquiry take shows, sees the danger. The threat. It takes us seriously enough to say like Bush “if you're not with us, you're against us.” If you're a speculative realist, you must be an anti-feminist, racist, worker-hating colonialist who wants to reject the last forty years of new left status quo, I mean scholarship.

Grow up chaps!

Dialectical materialism boils down to an ontology you can express in this sentence:

Reality is determined by human economic relations 

So, here's my thing about that, from my talk in Norway and my upcoming one at Northwestern.

We were expecting, perhaps, that once we could see on a much larger scale, things would become much easier to understand. Indeed, we might criticize those who tried to think at larger scales for being simplistic. We might even argue that they were deluded. Particularly if we had quite a bad case of the anthropocentric blues. We might accuse someone, if we were a certain kind of Marxist, of being a bit of a hippie for talking at scales bigger or otherwise beyond the human. The hippie is ideologically deluded into saying things exist outside of social ideological mediation based on the state of the forces of production. In short, all that we are the world stuff and save Earth stuff is bourgeois pabulum meant to keep us docile.
Why does our Marxist have this allergic reaction? Because he is rigidly adhering to a solution to the Kantian shock—the shock that there are things, but that when we look for them, we only find human flavored thing data. We never see the actual raindrop, we have raindrop feelings, raindrop thoughts, raindrop perceptions. Kant himself tries to contain the explosion by saying that there is a top-level way of understanding the raindrop, namely mathematizing it via a concept of extension as the bedrock of what a thing is. Post-Kantians contain the explosion two ways. Either they reduce everything to matter and ignore the implications of modern philosophy and the science derived from it. Or they wish away the gap between phenomenon and thing by claiming more strongly than Kant that some kind of Decider, goo goo ga joob, makes the thing real. So all these powerful substitutes for the Kantian subject arise. Geist (Hegel), will (Schopenhauer), will to power (Nietzsche), Dasein (Heidegger—and we all know German Dasein is the best best Decider of all).
And in the case of Marx, human economic relations. Human economic relations make things real. And in the hardcore Hegelian Lacanian Althusserian version, these relations are an in-the-last-instance that determine everything else like the sucker of a giant and sprawling undersea creature, attached to a rock in one place, but attached really strongly, incapable of being peeled off that rock. So that for the cultural Marxist, unconsciously retweeting a substance–accidents model of things, there is ideology (accidents) and human economic relations (substance).

Of course putting it this way I have already committed a horrible sin, because I've said the word human. By saying that word, I have implied that there might be a world or worlds beyond or different than the human, which is as good as saying that there are such worlds. I have touched the third rail. I have implied Marxism doesn't explain everything, because there are cats, coral and galaxies. The very concept ecology, coined by Ernst Haeckel, was a way to say the economy of nature in a compact way. The economy of nature. Economic relations that include nonhumans. Highly suspicious.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Final Tree

Nikel, Russia. Because iron smelting >> sulphur dioxide. It was like visiting a charnel ground. It started off really bleak and nightmarish and ended up warm and strange.

It also looks like the band photo for something Nik Gaffney (left) and I should be in...




Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dark Ecology Roundtable (MP3)

In Kirkenes, Norway. My heart was so full that it was almost impossible to get the words out. I lost it pretty badly afterwards; luckily that is not on the recording : ) Featuring Timothy Morton, Arie Altena, Britt Kramvig, Nik Gaffney, and Espen Sommer Eide. 


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Human Thought at Earth Magnitude (MP3)

My contribution to the four year Dark Ecology project by Sonic Acts, thus far. Oh this was so moving to do. I slowed down a lot--you'll hear why...


Fish Sounds, Coral and You

Fish make all kinds of sound, and we don't know about that as a rule. Jana Winderen was one of the speakers at Dark Ecology up in Russia. She talked about how her work led to greater care for coral reefs in the Caribbean.

Interesting. We've all seen gorgeous photos of coral. But hearing the fish and so on making sounds actually clinched it when it came to caring for the lifeforms there.

I wonder why. One could perhaps say unwarranted things about sound being immediate and visual things not being, and all the usual cliches. Or perhaps there is a more vivid link for us right now between listening and caring.

Or simply that the voices of fish prevent us from seeing them simply as objects of a sadistic gaze (gaze not being the same as visuality nota bene).

The fact that they call to one another, without us, despite us. I remember the impact of Songs of the Humpback Whale in the 1970s.

That by hearing via underwater microphones rather than seeing, we realize that the biosphere is lit up whether or not we open the refrigerator door.

What do you think?

Too Bright

After about a week in the polar regions, I'm down here in the subtropics and wow it's so orange and yellow all day. It's as if someone turned the light up way way too bright.

Easier on the eye up there. Also easier on the lungs.

And heart-burstingly intense, the landscape.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dark Ecology Video 2

Dark Ecology. Day 2 from Moloko on Vimeo.

Dark Ecology Video 1

Oh dear, this was so very moving I'm afraid I can't even write about it very much right now. Watch this instead:


Dark Ecology. Day 1 from Moloko on Vimeo.

Jammin with Raviv Ganchrow

One thing that happened up here is that Raviv developed and performed a piece who magnitude in every sense blows the lid off of modernity to allow us to hear the abyssal roar of context within and beyond and behind it, a swirl of mountains, quakes, oceans, war and air.

The percussive blast of the opening of the age of asymmetry. (See Hyperobjects for a definition.)

Raviv and I are sitting in adjoining rows on the plane getting the basic thought structure on this mapped out. Exhilarating as colossal crinkles of Norway pass thousands of feet beneath.



Full

Maybe Konstantin the photographer here at Dark Ecology said it best just now. Everything is so much he feels like a camera with a permanently open aperture.

The music workshops are beginning today and 35 of us are departing.

My heart is so full I don't know what to say. Imagine having a four year project named after your work. Then imagine showing up at the conference that sets the tone for that project. To talk about how to proceed.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Arctic Mayor

Linda Beate Randal is the mayor of this region. She was at the Sonic Acts dinner last night--a very nice one too.

I'm beginning to like mayors. Of course I only know two of them: Linda and Jón Gnarr.

Check this out. Linda presented flowers to one of the organization team, and in her speech she quoted my stuff. And she discussed it. I mean how extraordinary is that? And honoring?

She was down with the idea that ecology is about intimacy. As a farmer she had a lot of experience of that. And as the mayor of a place right on the Russian border, bonds with humans trumped political lines. People rely on one another.

In other news, the vastness of the fjord system up here. I can't describe it yet.

Talk went quite well. I shall post it here as soon as I can.

Arctic Food

Thank goodness someone else believes in pickles. Of the fish and vegetable kinds.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Morgan Freeman Says

...eco things. He always makes whatever it is sound good. Jón Gnarr thought he should be the voice of the Hyperobjects audio book! You must have heard "him" and his sorority letter?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Serpentine Interview

Thank you Hans Ulrich Obrist that was so good. You might like to see the Extinction Marathon happening there next week. I think our piece will be part of it.

In response to one of his amazing questions I said I really liked working with artists but I think I did a slightly crummy job of explaining why. Shorter:

BECAUSE THEY CARE ABOUT THE PHENOMENAL WORLD



Sunday, October 5, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

Addicted to Music

This song is about as silly as my record collection. You have to like Joey Negro, right? Anyway, the whole thing has a rather pleasant 1991 kind of feeling to it. Maybe it's the flute. Or those chords. Or the slightly bitonal quality. Whatever. What the dude is saying is a pretty accurate description of how it's gone for me. My mum just sent over a few hundred that were languishing in storage somewhere in London!


Most Art Theory

Anything is art. Nothing is art. Everything is a urinal that awaits my signature.