“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Babies and Bathwater

Adrian Ivakhiv just posted this interesting comment on my post “On Not Knowing Anything”:

"Ontology is always ontotheology? Wrong. Phenomenology old hat? Wrong. Aristotle just a boring old duffer who dictated terminology to bored students? Wrong. No essence anywhere to be seen? Wrong. Humanities the handmaid of science? Wrong. The list goes on and on."

Tim, I wonder whether Deleuze, Whitehead, Latour, Peirce, Haraway, Barad, Connolly, Varela, Thrift, and others like them couldn't have also been vehicles for realizing the wrongness (or at least incompleteness) of these things... But whether it's OOO or anyone else, I'm glad about the shift.

Will this mean we should stop teaching Ecology Without Nature (as representative of the deconstructivist wing of ecocriticism) and wait for your new books?

Well there are several responses to the final question.

1) Keep teaching them! I need the money (only kidding—just : ) )

2) I don't know, it's up to you! Some people have very rigid categories. Like they rigidly distinguish between different forms of techno. I don't do business like that myself but I can see why others might.

3) They are good books no matter whether I may have new ideas now. Would you stop listening to Beethoven's Third because Beethoven's Ninth was better, he said arrogantly?

4) What's good about them are their strong affinities with OOO. I backed into OOO via deconstruction, not in spite of it. OOO is the only view out there that's truly non-ontoetheological (sorry, all the guys on Adrian's list). In Ecology without Nature I demolish the concept “nature”: OOO also holds this to be an “ontic” prejudice smuggled into philosophy (viz. Aristotle's “some objects are more natural than others”—a textbook case of ontotheology).

In The Ecological Thought I develop the idea of the strange stranger, which can easily be generalized to non-life. This is how I got into OOO actually. When Levi started talking excitedly about the strange stranger I saw my reflection.

As for the other thinkers, well I love Whitehead like Graham but I'm not a Whiteheadian. I'm an object-oriented ontologist. Stengers, not sure yet. Barad, disagree on quantum theory (OOO reasons). Deleuze, used to be Deleuzian but now I think he's in the “new and improved nature” crew. Varela, Jedi mind tricks using Spencer-Brown, not convinced yet. Latour, he's one of us! Connolly, see Deleuze but I like him and he's a good guy. Thrift, not enough experience to know.

Haraway, well Donna and I have a disagreement going. For my money, Donna is way too heavily invested in world, a concept that fails in the same way that Nature fails. (Hear my talks here and here for my argument on this.)

I also think shoving the highly woolly words “nature” and “culture” together to get “natureculture” is not an argument. It's a classic example of what I call “new and improved” Nature ideology. My book could easily have been called Ecology without Natureculture.

For her part, Donna thinks I'm an “exterminist,” getting entities oven-ready for destruction. To which I reply, how can you destroy something that doesn't exist?


Kai said...

hmm, Latour has used nature-cultures from time to time as well

Timothy Morton said...

Kai, I still don't like it!