“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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Problems with Badiouian Ethics

...the big one: he destroys ethics. There is a genuine differend here. A radical asymmetry between the “ethics” crew and the “politics versus ethics” crew.

How do you get from this:

the ethic of a truth: ‘Do all that you can to persevere in that which exceeds your perseverance. Persevere in the interruption. Seize in your being that which has seized and broken you.’ (Ethics 47)

—to an answer to this perfectly straightforward ethical question:

Do we force corporations to limit carbon emissions now?

Badiou's “ethics” are a kind of moral atomic bomb. Even Ayn Rand would answer this question more sensibly than Badiou, who just can't answer it, I claim. Of course, Ayn Rand wouldn't answer it as I wish. But she would answer it, as would a host of others.

There's a danger with trying for a one size fits all “ethics.” Nietzsche's utter repudiation of the possibility of moral rationality is the outcome of the Enlightenment's mistaken quest for a final and definitive argument that will settle moral disputes into perpetuity by power of a calculative reason alone...

Infrastructure 2.0


Currently we're all losing it re: the debt ceiling horror. I agree with Graham's recent post that what we really need to be getting on with is building the country again from the bottom up, starting with infrastructure. (It's a term Graham likes, and so do I.) He also links to these dire thoughts from Paul Krugman.

Gigantic Walls of Visual Feedback

When you allow one recording device to record another of its kind, or a glitch in its own system, as Steve Calvert is doing, it happens. I'm still too blown away to know exactly what to say about these. I'm someone whose house is full of Bridget Riley reproductions of varying sizes, and I recently fell in love with Yukultji Napangati's work. So as you can imagine I'm falling for Calvert's work in a big way.

The above image is the result of photocopiers feeding back, if you can believe. They remind me of Comora Tolliver's work in Mylar and the mirrored “carpets” of Farmanfarmian. It's a lesson in the strangeness of sensuality and the stunning-ness of withdrawal all at once.

Xeroglyphy -- The xeroglyph produces an imitation of resemblance; true simulacra in that they are literally copies without original, mimetic of some pythagorean realm which cannot exist. Summoned by the nervous human impulse to find or force a familiar symmetry, the face, in the fold-between, making meaning from the maya matrix, active interstice of collision betwixt memory sensation and attention, unfolds with a simply repeated Rorschach effect. The xeroglyphic effect has become our signature house-special generative procedural technique. Produced by cultivating an internal feedback system within the cycle of a standard digital photocopier, scan-lines reverse-engineered by a cross-platform machine-translation of the equally compelling video-feedback marvel. Generating a consistent matrix of symbolic-simulations, the process has produced a discretely constrained yet near infinite variable of emergent graphical lexicography, scrollable and scaleable to any conceivable output dimension. Invented in the summer of 2000, many of my art applications of the intervening decade diverge from a struggle to resolve an explication for this remarkable phenomenon.

Photocopier feedback follows a generative ruleset analogous to that of video feedback, but with horizontal rather than spiral articulation. The 'original' or seed image is any incidental bit of optical noise or surface contrast, presented at random in the initiatory step. The process is manual, but otherwise autocatalytic. The body is moving much too quickly to be called 'drawing'. The artist is a component servo-mechanism, catalytic spark in an integrated circuit, initiating an electro-mechanical feedback loop. Her presence and attention, reflection, gentle pre-cognitive vibrations. aspriational coaxing-forward of the gaze, the process shuffles itself toward the reader, raising harmonic nodes of emergent coherency, transitory identities auto-selectively self-organizing. Feedback's concatenating effect applies in many electrical, vibrational, and acoustic devices... most famously, feedback most often makes its introduction in popular 60's music. I have taken as my practice, the liberal exploration, interpretation, and dissemination of such cybernetic riddles presented by the feedback phenomenon. It remains my primary orbital thesis, mode and modus, key thematic instrument for creative inquiry.

Kant as a Way out of Correlationism

...courtesy of Steve Shaviro. That's why I've been revisiting the Third Critique this past month.

Shaviro argues elegantly that to sidestep Hegel you should consider retrofitting Kant.

I go further in

...so this rather predictable BBC hit job on Heidegger casts aspersions on his chopping wood in the forest etc. I've done that it's called going on retreat...you confront what Trungpa Rinpoche calls basic anxiety, after a few hours of "isn't this lovely..."


...by Reload. It's a good example of why I use 303 in my moniker...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Steve Calvert

...if you aren't interested in his work, there might be something wrong with you. More soon.

Stuart Zender, Incredible Bassist

Just before he went crazy my brother was jamming with him. While spending my first few years in the USA, it was hard to get out of my mind the idea that Steve was being nudged towards being in the same band as this guy (it was a few months later when Jamiroquai became huge)...it was pretty intense hearing what they could do together in Steve's bedroom on the top floor of a maisonette in South London.

Stuart and I shared some karma because we nursed Steve through the first couple of weeks of his breakdown. Those were very long nights...

“In the Moment”

This is a much abused phrase. It is taken to mean “in the now,” “refusing to stray in one's awareness beyond the present.” What the heck is that? How big is the window? Five seconds? Ten years? Zeno's paradox alert.

Think of how mindfulness has been reduced to sport (the Zone) or feats of neurological prowess, however impressive those may be.

But if you take it to mean what Heidegger means (right after the line I just posted on), you see something very interesting.

Again, there is an uncanny parallel to Buddhism. It's called the fourth moment in Dzogchen. There is the present, the past, the future. Then there is the fourth moment. This is the moment at which the nature of mind is happening. Shamatha type mindfulness experience has a “nowness” to it that might function as a gate into this fourth moment.

Now unless you've received mind transmission it's pretty easy to dismiss this as a Platonic illusion of some beyond. But I assure you this fourth moment is possible to experience and is in fact much more intimate than the common sense of “being in the present.” It is much more like “being outside of time.” It's indescribable but real.

Talking of indescribable, Trungpa Rinpoche writes a magnificent piece on it here.

So-called sudden enlightenment needs enough preparation for it to be sudden. Otherwise, it can’t happen at all. If you have a sudden accident in your motor car, you had to have been driving in your car. Otherwise, you can’t have the accident.


“Waiting for Something to Happen”

There it is, staring me in the face on page 310 of my edition of Being and Time. It's now rather faded from many readings and delvings. But it's only now that the magnificence of it is catching up with me.

So imagine my sense of the uncanny (if you like) when I saw Heidegger describing the “everyday” (as opposed to “authentic”) notion of time as “awaiting.”

In other words, something is already “happening” (but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones: let's just call it death, to be clear) and confused being ignores it, projecting into the future as if it were living in a rigid series of instants.  

This is precisely what Trungpa Rinpoche used to say about samsara. “Samsara is waiting for something to happen.” He is not on record as having said it, however, since he said it in talks that have not yet been published. But some of his closest students have told me about it, since they are among my best friends

Now it's clear that Trungpa read a lot of phenomenology and I'm betting that he read Heidegger. So the interesting question arises, who is influencing whom there? Here you have an immensely powerful (make of him what you will) German philosopher channeling something like Buddhism and Taoism, and influencing an immensely powerful Tibetan teacher.

Think about it: samsara is waiting for something to happen. It's defined variously as a cycle of confusion and suffering. But why is it a cycle? Why is it confused? Why does it involve suffering? It seems to me that Heidegger's and Trungpa's overlapping definitions are very profound.

The Wheel of Life mandala depicts samsara occurring within the jaws of death.  It struck me that Trungpa and Heidegger are both trying to look fairly squarely into the mouth of death there.

Buddhism and Black Metal, Best Budies

HT Zachary Price. Buddhism and metal as meditation on death. I don't disagree with anything I see here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bobby, Banksy, Causality, Phenomenology, Graffiti

Dreamduke nails it. Rather wonderfully, what he's describing is vandalism against graffiti itself. When something is erased it has been affected by some other object. Apropos of my previous.

Because there is a profound ambiguity in objects, which is precisely the chorismos between their being and their appearance. This results in appearance having a slightly evil vibe about it, according to some philosophical views. Because you can never be sure. Is it art? Is it vandalism? We can ask this question because art is always already vandalism, causality...

Bad Acid versus Valium

Douglas Lain just posted something interesting on Twitter, something related to my book on causality. I was somewhat fooling around, describing the Obama years as like a bad trip. Like when you realize you are in a nightmare, very fresh and vivid. Man the last few weeks of “debt ceiling negotiations” have certainly been very much like that. In Buddhist terms, samsara to the power of two. Makes you see where you are...

Versus the Bush years, which seemed like heavy Valium, a woozy fuzzed out near-death dream of wrong. I remember the impact that Oliver Stone's movie made a few weeks before the election (good timing, sort of like a lucid dream). It was like, “You are in a nightmare.”

So Doug tweeted back that you just can't argue against subjective states. Now this got me thinking. I wasn't exactly making an argument, if by argument we mean deliberation or forensic analysis (in the old rhetorical sense). This was more demonstrative rhetoric—where art lives, the rhetoric of praise and blame, props and dissing.

Since however for me, where the art lives is the causal dimension, the difference between “subjective” and “causal” is nonexistent.

In a Kantian universe, definitely, we would not be able to distinguish subjective states as superior or inferior or whatever. We can only do that about empirical data and selves are not empirical data but transcendental facts. In this universe, aesthetic experience is real and tangible yet unspeakable.

Now in an OOO universe, this Kantian aesthetic is a little island in a larger ocean. The ocean is the causal ocean. For sure you can compare and contrast different kinds of aesthetic “experience.” Indeed, this accounts for how psychoactive drugs work in the first place. They disprove by their very existence the rigid line between subjective and objective facts. They act causally on your brain, that is, aesthetically, producing all kinds of phantasm. The way they act can be very accurately described and differentiated.

What we call subjectivity is just a causal event that “happens to us,” that we snatch out of the aesthetic continuum of causality and call meaningful, human, whatever. 

So sure, you can compare and argue about subjective states. I'd rather be tripping and awake with Obama than hypnotized with W.

Living Graffiti

Courtesy of Bill Benzon. The neat thing about the concept is, it straddles decorating and causing or affecting. Because is graffiti art or vandalism? As I've been arguing for a while, the aesthetic dimension is the causal dimension.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Philosopher Quotes Alan Watts, I Dig It

Matthew David Segall, that is. Repect for quoting the Man from Sausalito:

This is the current movement in philosophy: logical analysis says you mustn’t think about existence. It’s a meaningless concept. Therefore philosophy has become the discussion of trivia. No good philosopher lays awake nights worrying about the destiny of man and the nature of God and all that sort of thing. A philosopher today is a practical fellow who comes to the university with a briefcase at 9 and leaves at 5. He does philosophy during the day—which is discussing whether certain sentences have meaning and if so what. He would come to work in a white coat if he thought he could get away with it.

Watts craved speculative realism.

Ecological Politics Rosa Parks Moment

DeChristopher on going to prison from Juliana Schatz on Vimeo.

HT Thomas Gokey.

Those New Comments Rules Again

Sorry for the hassle. Please use your real first and last name and put an email address. Commit!

How Much Space Would It Take to Power the World on Solar

...that much?! This includes all electrical consumption, all machinery, all forms of transportation. The little yellow dots represent the area required.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Robert Jackson on Harman on Meillassoux

I haven't read Graham's new book yet. But I've read his reviews, and they are as Jackson says: extremely well crafted summaries of an argument along with (and I love Jackson's use of this term) prudently mobilized engagements.

So here is Rob on Graham's book. It's a great example of how to do a post, I reckon. You learn something. Take away line, for me:

By ... following where the rabbit hole goes (so to speak) into renewing the in-itself, both arrive at spectacularly different conclusions. Meillassoux arrives at a Virtual God and an immanence of effects without causes, Harman arrives at an object that cannot be exhausted and speculates that causes have no effects, (or as its known, the logical premise of a dormant object).

Nicely done mate. 

The Left and Race

My step dad is black so I have some protective feelings towards Obama. So sue me. Really nice guy, Maurice, really strong (on the inside), good at fixing things, very grounded.

Don Hubbard manages Hubbard Mansion, a hotel in New Orleans. He has photos of him embracing King, and some really powerful photos from the Civil Rights era.

One photo shows an irate white woman kicking a white guy in the ass for holding a little black girl's hand as she walks to school. Amazing image. We talked about it for a while.

Then I asked Don, “Hey Don, why do you think the left is hating on Obama so much these days?”

His answer was simple: “They want him to be the supernegro.”

Don't shoot the messenger dudes. Everyone can be a bit racist right (cue Avenue Q)?

There's a form of spectacular politics that I really despise. It's the comfy position of rubbernecking catastrophe from the point of view of powerlessness.

Believe me as a poor scholarship boy at a very very posh British public school (St. Paul's), whose mum fed him and his brothers for about ten quid a week, I know about that. And as an immigrant to the States, where my head was placed in a metal clamp in a detention facility outside of Denver, to pose for my Green Card, I know about that. (Foucault eat your heart out!)

One big reason why I became a US citizen was so I could stop feeling totally smug and totally powerless at the same time. Take some responsibility and some blame for the crap we're in.

Now here's my thought, and it's shared by Van Jones. Can we do more than one thing at once? Do we have to be so rigid in our thinking? Can we be a little bit supportive of President Obama, and organize for a better future—the really future future, you know beyond the state, beyond race and class and gender (and I would add species)? At the same time?

Another Ph.D. Nearly Done

...this time it's Rachel Swinkin, with a dissertation on animal rights and the age of sensibility. This is definitely the best part of the process. It's psychologically good for me, personally, as I can become a benevolent uncle to the whole project, with some benign neglect. My advising arc for Ph.Ds goes:

—big picturer
—steersman (prospectus stage)
—mortal combatant (prospectus stage 2)
—fussy bastard (individual chapters)
—benign neglector (finishing)
—staunch ally (job market)

Undergrad teaching is sort of grandfatherly. Graduate teaching is more like talking to much younger siblings. Ph.D. work is martial arts. I'm trying to kill you. You have to figure out how to survive. Only kidding...

Queen Mab Videogame

Shelley's poem with notes, Queen Mab, will be 200 years old in 2013. With another Shelley scholar I'm designing an online videogame “edition” of the text. This will include facsimiles of the first edition, and the various pirate copies.

Despite being “kicked upstairs” by Matthew Arnold as “an ineffectual angel,” Shelley and in particular Queen Mab was very popular with Chartists, socialists, Marxists and anarchists throughout the nineteenth century.

My colleague—Alan Weinberg—and I both think that the book is still current. In other words we don't want to make something that is purely a reproduction of the past. We want something that will give people some kind of grip on its strangeness and its relevancy.

Among other things, Queen Mab contains Spinozan cosmological arguments (note 1 is about the speed of light); arguments for vegetarianism; proto-socialist and pro-feminist arguments; a major statement on atheism; and more and more. It's very speculative really.

But it was disguised as a children's book (hence the title). I thought it would be interesting to make it as a videogame.

If you have any ideas on how to proceed or you'd like to join us on this venture just write me. I know Domnic Fox (of Cold World fame) is into Shelley. I had  very nice chat with Ian Bogost about it yesterday.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Early Literary Theory Class 15

...Revision time! In which I try not to make a total fool of myself by explaining all kinds of things from Plato to 1900. Featuring much hilarity about Aeolian harps.

US National Debt Chart

FYI. Note the enormous lump at the bottom. That's W's debt.

Good News for Ontological Interpretations of Quantum Theory

It has been further established that the speed of light is unbreakable, even by individual photons. This must mean that nonlocality does not involve signals faster than light. Thus what we call particles are epihenomenal. They are manifestations of some deeper substrate. QT has already ruled out various other possibilities (the most recent book on the subject is Anton Zeilinger's).

Good news if you're a fan of David Bohm. And good news if you like my essay “Here Comes Everything.” This result is in line with my OOO speculation on quantum theory there.

The actual paper is here.

“He Was a Lone Wolf” and Other Ideological Memes

“So pure”

The fascist killer in Norway has already been described as a “lone wolf” and as a “madman.” This follows the regular borrowed-kettle script that the media like to rehearse when a fascist kills someone:

1) “He was insane”
2) “He acted alone”
3) “He wasn't a Nazi”
4) “His enemies were Nazis”
5) “His victims were asking for it”

Now you don't have to run through every item on the script here, but they are all forms of exoneration.

How many of these lone wolves does it take to convince regular people that fascism is at present carried out by a massively distributed PACK?

Aside from playing into the individualism meme—it's better to be a lone wolf than to be part of a collective—the image is bad for wolves, who are very compassionate to other wolves.

Of course the image is supposed to naturalize the killer. And by extension it makes us be chickens or some other feminized farm animal.

Design Ecologies Video Archive 2

HT Claudia Westermann (thanks!).

New Comments Rules

Some recent comments, and my reading of an essay that convinced me of the importance of my role as moderator, has led me to give some new rules:

State your full, real name when you comment or your comment will be not be posted.

Refrain from  name calling, sarcasm and other forms of direct aggression. Comments containing this sort of language will not be posted.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer School: Early Literary Theory 14

Ending on Matthew Arnold after the incandescence of Kant, Hegel and Shelley was kind of a bum note. Never mind. Henry James and Walter Pater cheer things up. That and some relativity, phenomenology and the rise of the novel.

Design Ecologies Video Archive

Archival footage of the whole conference in London's Architectural Association this February. This video has one of my hyperobjects talks in it...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Climate of Deception: How Fox Distorts Climate News

Weep my friends.


Karl Steel (HT) recommends that I listen to Jacob Kierkegaard's Eldfjall while I listen to the sound of Jupiter. by Jove (!) this is a good idea. Icelandic geothermal vibrations.

The Sound of Jupiter

They are well within the range of human hearing:

“The complex interactions of charged electromagnetic particles from the solar wind , planetary magnetosphere etc. create vibration "soundscapes". ... Jupiter is mostly composed of hydrogen and helium. The entire planet is made of gas, with no solid surface under the atmosphere. The pressures and temperatures deep in Jupiter are so high that gases form a gradual transition into liquids which are gradually compressed into a metallic ‘plasma’ in which the molecules have been stripped of their outer electrons. The winds of Jupiter are a thousand metres per second relative to the rotating interior. Jupiter's magnetic field is four thousand times stronger than Earth's, and is tipped by 11° degrees of axis spin. This causes the magnetic field to wobble, which has a profound effect on trapped electronically charged particles. This plasma of charged particles is accelerated beyond the magnetosphere of Jupiter to speeds of tens of thousands of kilometres per second. It is these magnetic particle vibrations which generate some of the sound you hear on this recording.”

Art-Critical Contradictions

For my project on causality I'm reading an essay called “Art-Critical Contradictions” by Brandon Cooke. He argues that there are real contradictions in aesthetic judgments. If you've been following this blog for a while you might figure out why I find that compelling.

It's a terrific essay. Cooke digs quite deeply in: he's not simply interested in the fact that people say “This is beautiful” about different things, or disagree about what is beautiful. The fact is, people offer totally contradictory interpretations of artworks. These interpretations are legitimated by (among other things) academic standing. So for instance we have the following interpretations of Manet's The Execution of Maximilian (above): 

John House: “It was by its ambivalence, by the studied lack of dramatic rhetoric or moral signposting, that Manet’s purely ‘artistic’ [painting] could function politically.  Its detachment and its open-endedness, a distinctively Parisian language of opposition to Napoleon’s empire, set up this image of Maximilian’s fate…as an icon of the perils of imperial and dynastic ambitions.”

Michael Fried: “[the painting is a field] with Manet himself—Manet as painter-beholder—at once everywhere and nowhere..  As a victim of the jury system…he belongs with Maximilian and the two generals.  At the same time, as an aggressor against the public…he is aligned with the firing squad, which would give ironic force to the oft-repeated charge that his attempts to draw attention to himself at any cost were tantamount to discharging a pistol at the Salon.”

Georges Bataille: “A priori, death, coldly, methodically dealt out by a firing squad, is unfavorable to indifference: it’s a subject charged  with meaning, giving rise to violent feelings, but Manet appears to have painted  it as if insensible; the spectator follows it in that profound apathy. […]the text is effaced by the painting. And the meaning of the painting is not the text, but the effacement.”

Or, more sharply, between these interpretations of Turner's Rain, Steam and Speed

John Gage: Turner celebrates “the Railway Age” and the affirmation of progress embodied by the locomotive “with an allegory developed from the Baroque, and in a style deriving from a study of Rembrandt.”

John McCoubrey: the painting is “Turner’s protest against the machine despoliation of the environment, in this case a lovely section of the Thames long dear to the painter.

Now someone like Stanley Fish solves this with the idea of interpretive communities. A judgment J can be true (P) in community X while not true (¬P) in community Y. But in the examples given above, there are no meaningful temporal or cultural gaps that would justify claiming that they come from different interpretive communities. Take that, relativists...

Furthermore, part of the fun of thinking about art criticism is balancing or comparing judgments that are from similar enough communities to make sense. We just wouldn't do this if everything was relative.

Thus there seem to be art-critical contradictions that are not explosive. The two interpretations of the Turner for instance contradict, and both are true; but this doesn't mean that this interpretation is also true:

Rain, Steam and Speed is about a tomato called Ronnie who juggles on Titan.

Now my question is why are dialetheias possible in art criticism? And my answer is, it has to be something to do with the object. And what is that? In a word, a profound ontological ambiguity. (Actually that's four words...)

Bittman Talks Sense on Food

Mark Bittman's book How to Cook Everything is somewhat indispensable. I was pleased to see his piece in the Times today about a simple solution to eating problems: tax nasty food and subsidize nice food.

Right now it’s harder for many people to buy fruit than Froot Loops; chips and Coke are a common breakfast. And since the rate of diabetes continues to soar — one-third of all Americans either have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, most with Type 2 diabetes, the kind associated with bad eating habits — and because our health care bills are on the verge of becoming truly insurmountable, this is urgent for economic sanity as well as national health.

Brass Eye: Vertical Farming

Curiously, one of these pieces came true...

Brass Eye on Animals

Stand aside Ali G, this is the original. A brilliant send up of the news from the early 1990s that made its way into Parliament (no one was hip to this genre in those far off days). In particular, I love the psychedelic hyperbolic version of the current affairs show credits. (Sorry embedding disabled.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Oil Peakalypse Now

My dad just sent me a very funny book of images, some of which I believe he made himself. He's pretty good at that sort of thing...

I'm on Adbusters

...soon something I wrote will be in Adbusters. I didn't realize that they'd put this up.

Emersonian Zuhandenheit

Here are some lovely lines from his essay “Experience” which I'm chewing over today:

I take this evanesence and lubricity of all objects, which lets them slip through our fingers then when we clutch the hardest, to be the most unhandsome part of our condition.
Notice his use of “unhandsome,” which rings a certain bell of Zuhandenheit (un-hand-some)...

Fox and woodchuck, hawk and snipe and bittern, when nearly seen, have no more root in the deep world than man, and are just such superficial tenants of the globe. Then the new molecular philosophy shows astronomical interspaces betwixt atom and atom, shows that the world is all outside; it has no inside.
Emerson talks ontic givenness and how there is a rift between this and the deep structure of things. It's about how we co-exist in lacking a world (in the language of The Ecological Thought). That humans aren't that different from nonhumans, not because we are embedded in a lifeworld, but because we aren't.

There is a certain magic about [a man’s] properest action, with stupefies your powers of observation, so that though it is done before you, you wist not of it. The art of life has a pudency, and will not be exposed.
Causality floats in front of objects like a magical display. (I”m ignoring that Emerson is only talking about “men” here.)

Life has no memory.
The fact of retroactive positing means that the significance of an event is always in the future, to-come. This is what gives beings the feeling of temporal flow.

HT Cary Wolfe for putting me onto this essay.

Liz Fraser reads Valéry's The Graveyard by the Sea

I think I can die now. Goodbye. HT Dirk Felleman, AGAIN.

The Non-Visible Museum of Art

...a museum of ideas that are described. It's a museum for ideas, but the museum could also exhibit hyperobjects...paging my Sydney friends...Look at the great video. Of course, this is also to do with the expense of curating and funding art in today's economy...I'm going to pitch for putting something in it.

This is a conceptual art project by Praxis, curated by Vallejo Gantner, artistic director of PS122 in Manhattan. Praxis is the collaborative art team of Brainard and Delia Carey, and in this project, James Franco has collaborated with them. Praxis has been in the Whitney Museum Biennial and James Franco has exhibited his art work internationally.

The Non-Visible Museum is an extravaganza of imagination, a museum that reminds us that we live in two worlds: the physical world of sight and the non-visible world of thought. Composed entirely of ideas, the Non-Visible Museum redefines the concept of what is real. Although the artworks themselves are not visible, the descriptions open our eyes to a parallel world built of images and words. This world is not visible, but it is real, perhaps more real, in many ways, than the world of matter, and it is also for sale.

Beautiful Soul Kills Humans, Again

HT @helloinhere: it appears the Norwegian Christian right wing terrorist (yes Fox that's right, again) bears a strong resemblance to the Jake Busey character (with similar motivations) in the Carl Sagan inspired Contact.

Schaberg Airport Book

...is now up at the Continuum website. And I just received confirmation that it will be blurbed by the trusty Ian Bogost.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Disgust and Horror in Buddhism

David Chapman writes eloquently about it. He also curates Buddhism for Vampires. Clearly this is my kind of Buddhism!

Tantra is for sure about working with disgust. Spit into your hand. Now lick the spit up. You feel disgusted? Why? That was in “your” mouth a second ago!

Harman on Lovecraft

It would be trite and not wholly accurate to say that no human pen could describe it, but one may properly say that it could not be vividly visualized by anyone whose ideas of aspect and contour are too closely bound up with the common life-forms of this planet and the known three dimensions.

Now this is what the rhetorical manuals call obscurum per obscures: describing something hard to represent in terms of something even harder to represent. One of Shelley's favorite tropes by the way, and mine too. 

You can see how it relates to withdrawal and the way that (nevertheless) objects “sparkle” as he puts it: I think judging from a more recent post he's working on that very issue. There seems, to my too superficial eyes, to be something more disturbing than the normal frontal horror versus shadowy horror: a kind of chorismos between the two, an uneasy oscillation.

Activity and Passivity

Thanks to Dirk Felleman I'm urged to clarify my thoughts on dreaming, remembering and objects. I'm going to take a little detour around some rather more basic prejudices about action and passion before I deal with the pith of Dirk's questions.

Dirk's quite reasonable objection is that I don't seem to have given an account of the active work of dreaming and remembering. What disturbed Freud (as Dirk puts it) was his discovery that the unconscious actively edits incoming stimuli. 

Now this agency can perhaps be thought of in two distinct ways. The first is that some supervenient property such as imagination or will or creativity adds something to the mix. The second is that there is a physiological process that does roughly the same thing. 
First of all let's look at the big picture:

(1) The binary opposition activity–passivity is, according to OOO, somewhat overrated. OOO is predisposed to disregard the opposition, to some extent, since it seems to map onto human–non-human, or perhaps sentient–nonsentient. Or, looking to Aristotle, animal–vegetable (and mineral). 

(2) There are deeper reasons why OOO would be chary of the active–passive binary. If as Graham Harman argues in Guerrilla Metaphysics, free will is overrated, I believe we're signalling that what is called activity and passivity are both as-structured: they are both of them sensual phenomena that occur between objects. And there are reasons to suppose the binary is just spurious, as I shall try to demonstrate.

Now returning to the activity of memory and dreaming: supervenient entity or physiological process.

If every encounter between every entity is a parody or a translation, we have all the fuel we need for the things that look like action, passion, imagination, memory and so on.

Dirk's questions are right on the money I think, above and beyond the active-passive conundrum I've discussed thus far.

So we are always dealing with an object's dream of another object.

The unconscious is precisely that: not what we call "subject." It's automatic. It seems as if we have all we need then for a theory of how objects dream.

Girten's Essay Forthcoming

...in The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation. It's about time someone really went to town with Charlotte Smith.

Go See Project Nim

...actually I almost can't bear to; the new documentary that is. The thought of humans bringing up a chimp then how he's taken away from them and experimented on and left to die on a cement floor.

Kristin Girten on the Sublime

What a treat to see students of yore, now flourishing in jobs, doing great stuff. I speak at present of Kristin Girten, who just sent me the paper that accompanies her presentation, on Charlotte Smith. It's about the sublime and in particular it talks Longinus (yay), who some of you know already is my pick for a speculative sublime. 

Why? In nuce because Longinus allows the sublime to be about intimacy with an alien. Kant rules out anything like speculation: you're not supposed to think extraterrestrials or cosmic strings when you look at the night sky: somehow you're supposed to ignore that and see it as a dome of pin pricks of light. But wait a minute: doesn't that mean that you are simply substituting one form of speculation for another, albeit an outmoded, Ptolemaic one? (Talk about an ironic fulfillment of Meillassoux's point about Kant's so-called “Copernican revolution.”) In other words, there is no innocent, non-speculative seeing. 

But with Longinus in charge, you can have all the speculation you want, because the sublime is not simply an internal state brought on by an external irritant. It's contact with a real alien being. 

Kristin somehow loops this all through Charlotte Smith, who wrote the book that The Cure are still reading from. She wrote 108 Elegiac Sonnets and they are each one of them masterpieces. And they all say exactly the same thing. She's playing with repetition and as you know, repetition is death. By forcing you gently into contact over and over again with melancholy she sensitizes you. 

My analogy when I taught her last quarter was The Cure's “Pictures of You.” Damn it I wish I had recorded it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Holy Mystic Writing Pads, Batman! The Dreams of Objects

Dirk Felleman has asked me to explain a little more why I say that objects dream. This is not simply a fanciful notion on my part. Objects dream. Here's how I got there.

First, let's look at the OOO side of things: 

(A) There is very little ontological difference between what we call a mind does when it's thinking and what a pencil case does when it's holding pencils.

(B) Objects are what Graham calls vacuum sealed from one another. They never touch each other ontologically, only aesthetically.

(C) What goes on inside an object are all kinds of sensual impressions of other objects. Levi has this rather wonderful post on Uexküll's worlds in this regard.

Now let's consider what we know about the unconscious:

Freud argues that it's some kind of inscribable surface. He uses the analogy of the mystic writing pad. Derrida has a marvelous, McLuhan-like essay on it (“Freud and the Scene of Writing”) since Freud is in essence admitting that the unconscious is what he calls arche-writing, namely, a technological device that subtends meaning.

When you use a mystic writing pad, you erase the wax paper, but the impression of the writing stays on the wax tablet beneath. Script is inscribed in an object. Think of your hard drive. Not much different. 

There are some interesting physiological theories of memory to throw in here:

Or memories are distributed holographically, that is nonlocally, in interference patterns (Karl Pribram).

Or memories are inscribed directly into discrete locations in the body. This post of Dylan Trigg talks about that, in haunting prose (again) that makes you realize that these memory traces go beyond the lifespan of the body in question. It's beginning to be quite well accepted in contemporary medicine that we store traumas in our bodies.

So what do we have so far?

(1) Objects only comprehend sensual translations of other objects.

(2) Memories are inscribed on an object-like surface, of the body or of some more general unconscious, either locally or nonlocally.

Doesn't there seem to be something like a chiasmic link between these? 

Now dreaming is a neurophysiological process in which memories are mixed with somewhat random neuron firings and a virtual experience of the world is lived through by the dreamer, who is often trying to make sense of the traumas (un-cathected objects) that have occurred to her. She feels her way around her interactions with other entities in a virtual space.

You can call the unconscious a mystic writing pad, because mystic writing pads themselves hold memories and impressions in a meaningful sense.

As tough to swallow as it might sound, then, I see no immediate obstacle to allowing for the possibility that objects—nonhumans, that is, including nonsentient nonhumans—dream in some meaningful sense.

Look at these lines of Shelley:

Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
  The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,  30
Lull'd by the coil of his crystàlline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiæ's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
  Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss, and flowers
  So sweet, the sense faints picturing them!(Ode to the West Wind)

The ocean is dreaming, writes Shelley. What is it dreaming of? A submerged city. The water laps around the sunken palaces and towers of Baiae. It tries to comprehend (see point A) these alien, withdrawn objects (B), in its ocean-centric, oceanomorphic way (C). These human structures that now rest within its domain are strangers in the ocean's world—Shelley conveys this strangeness by alluding to Shakespeare's The Tempest: “Full fathom five thy father lies, / Of his bones are coral made.”

It's a marvelous image of how consciousness is never simply a neutral container, a void. It's colored, it quivers. Look at the typical Shelleyan inversion of “the wave's intenser day.” More blue than the blue of the sky. More sky-like than sky.

An image of phenomenological sincerity. (“Wherever you go, there you are.”) But also an image of an object wrapped in another object. An object that accesses another one by dreaming about it.

My title is the projected title of an OOO event I'm hoping will somewhat spontaneously form around David Reid, shaman of Nottingham.

The Ego of Objects

Thanks to a wonderfully suggestive hint at De Paul, I have now started delving a little further than usual into Freud's The Ego and the Id. Since the ego is nothing but a palimpsest of “abandoned object cathexes,” why couldn't we apply this theory to every object? 

Let's think it in an Aristotelian way. Formal causes are in for a return in quantum theory, and in OOO, for somewhat similar reasons. 

In what sense is the form of an object its “ego”? The formal cause of an object, rather simply, is just the record of everything that has “happened to” it. A blob of molten glass is blown and cooled, resulting in a wine glass. The form of the glass, its ego if you like, is the record of the objects that struck it, blew on it, snipped it while it was molten, left it to cool.

McLuhan: Transformation not Transportation

HT Bobby George. Levi and Ian have been talking about this in the OOO context for a while. Now thanks to the magic of Vimeo (I think) you can see McLuhan specifying it, in person.

OOO One Year On

...of course it's been going for over a decade, really. But about this time last year was when I happened to look up Levi's page, needing a citation for something, and noticed he was talking about The Ecological Thought

Without a shadow of doubt, it's been the best year of my intellectual life...

Experientally it feels like home now. I'm re-encountering all my previous ideas in this new light. Someone referred to the OOO view as kaleidoscopic the other day: I think that's quite accurate. 

So we meet again, in New York, at the New School, in mid-September. I'm looking forward to what we come up with there.

Zombie Rights

I've been waiting for this for a while, having stated publicly, “I'd rather be a zombie than a tree hugger.” Neologism of the day: “lifeism.”

Summer School: Early Literary Theory 13

...Shelley's Defense of Poetry meets OOO, then the class goes on to explore Marx's idea that economics is how we organize our enjoyment. With some Aeolian harps thrown in for good measure.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ethical Underminers, Political Overminers

 Isn't it also the case that the very terms we use—“ethics” and “politics”—tend to map onto the undermining and overmining views, respectively? 

Ethics seems to want to reduce the field of action to one-on-one encounters between beings. 

Politics says that one-on-one encounters are never as significant as the world (of economic, class, moral and so on relations) in which they take place.

These two ways of talking form what Adorno, talking about something else, would have called two halves of a torn whole, which nonetheless don't add up together. In other words, some nice compromise “between” the two is impossible. (With respect to my integral ecology friends.)

Aren't we then hobbled when it comes to issues that affect society as a whole—nay the biosphere as a whole—yet affect us all individually (I have mercury in my blood and ultraviolet rays affect me unusually strongly)?

Would OOO be able to recast ethics and politics so that it was no longer a performance of intelligence in either domain to undermine or overmine?

Environmental Incrementalism and Ethical-Political Overmining

Doesn't the case against incrementalism, when it comes to things like global warming, amount to a version of what Graham Harman calls overmining, in the domain of ethics and politics?

Just as refusing to see the big picture is a form of undermining: "There are only individuals and collective decisions are ipso facto false."

...so a kind of cynicism is enabled by the left: "Since no one person's action will solve global warming, better to do nothing, or at most await the revolution to come."

Vegetarians, Prius owners and solar power enthusiasts (I check all those boxes) often encounter this sort of logic.

The trouble is, left cynicism maps perfectly onto GOP do-nothing-ism and Gaian defeatism (Gaia will replace us...like a defective component).

Nothing happens. Result? Global warming continues apace.

The OOO argument for irreductionism (both under- and over- mining) is highly congruent with ecological awareness.

A Thousand Colliding Worlds: The Bardo of OOO

A great interview today with Doug Lain provked the following thoughts. Doug brought up a version of the Three Little Pigs in which the pigs escape from the book by somehow exiting the page. They find themselves in a curious interstitial space populated with other characters. They bring back a dragon to their world and defeat the wolf.

What can we learn from this about our ideological and ecological situation? One is that when we exit from our ideological “world,” with its familiar contours, we are still somewhere. Isn't this the lesson of those interstitial moments in David Lynch movies, in which we see a transition between seemingly coherent worlds? These transitional spaces are not just a void.

Maybe philosophy and ideology only thinks these spaces as voids from within a certain kind of philosophical or ideological framework. Now OOO and Buddhism share something very interesting. They both hold that the interstitial space between things is not a void. In fact, it's charged with meaning, even causality.

What I've been calling the interobjective configuration space in which causality occurs—the aesthetic dimension—is what Buddhism calls the bardo. Bardo means in-between. Traditionally there are six: the bardo of this life, the bardo of dying, the bardo of the moment of death, the bardo of luminosity, the bardo of dharmata, and the bardo of becoming. Each of these interstitial spaces is configured according to the karmic actions of the person in them. 

These spaces are causal. In other words, what you do in them affects what happens next. And what you have done affects what happens in them, now. But like in a nightmare, the causality is aesthetic. What happens to you is an aesthetic event that you take to be real because of your conditioning. 

So the bardo of this life is like coexisting with seven billion people, all having slightly different nightmares. We affect one another across these nightmares. The view is not solipsism or idealism. These nightmares are happening in a shared space and they happen because we exist. And what happens in them is real. It affects you.

Now OOO ups the ante here. Because OOO argues that what nonhumans do is not all that different from what humans do. And “nonhuman” can mean frog, pencil or electron cloud. 

So here's the thing. As I walk across my dream of the lawn, the lawn is dreaming about me. When I drink this Diet Coke, I'm drinking my fantasy Coke, while the Coke is sliding down its Coke-fantasy of my throat. 

It's like that moment in Alice Through the Looking Glass in which she wonders whether she is a character in the Red King's dream. 

It's as if every entity in reality—salt crystals, the Sombreo Galaxy and Take That—is hooked up to Inception-like dream machines. 

It's scary and complex. There is no one single stable background “world”—not just because there is a plenum of entities dreaming, but also because such backgrounds are only ever artificial constructs that delimit the interstitial space, the bardo.

Andrew Hageman has finished his dissertation

And I'm signing it today. This is a very happy time. Andrew is the third advisee within the year to finish.

Andrew's dissertation is called The Hour of the Machine. It combines painstaking archival research (including database research with statistical analysis) with posthumanist theory and good old close reading, to produce a remarkable document on the history and meanings of terms we throw around such as “wheels within wheels.” 

In the course of his research Andrew discovered some remarkable facts. It's also the case that he has literally read almost everything on machines in literature and culture, going several centuries back...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Harman on Aristotle's Four Causes

Happily he appears to agree that we boot Telos off the island—or seriously restrict it as he specifies. He also agrees, though he doesn't know it yet, with an argument in my Realist Magic. We do need to reintroduce formal causes (the poor sister of efficiency and materiality, trust funders of science).

Joshua Clover, The Autumn of the Empire

I'm not sure what to make of it yet, because it's art you know. Joshua works opposite me and I really like his stuff.

Early Literary Theory Class 12

...featuring Hegel, dialectics, art, objects, La Monte Young and a stepdown transformer.

Integral Ecology Week 7

Nick Hedlund-de Witt has the controls for this week, follow him. This part deals with the chapter in Zimmerman's book called “Ecological Research: How We Examine.”

Spot the Player: Hegel on Ideas and the Attitudes They Code for

Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

This is one of William Blake's Songs of Experience, of course. Now these poems are interesting exercises in “spot the player,” or, as Blake puts it, “portraying” a certain “state of the human soul.” You have to figure out who is speaking these lines.

And the best answer anyone comes up with is: a near-cynical coward, awestruck by the idea of a horrifying mechanical universe created by an angry, if not downright evil, God.

In other words, the poem is a lie in the form of the truth. Tigers are fierce and scary. True. But (at least according to Blake himself) the Universe is not a horrifying mechanism. How can we tell Blake is playing with us here? Look at the illustration above. That's not a horrifying beast. That's a cuddly toy.

That's the trouble with ideology: it's a lie in the form of the truth. All ideological statements are like the Liar (“This sentence is false”) in that they allow you to hold an attitude along with a set of truths, an attitude that may even contradict the truths. (“We had to destroy the village in order to save it“ is a pretty extreme example.)

Literary critics love Hegel because they do exactly the same thing as he does: they identify the narrator of the text.

Still not sure? Think of an ad. The ad sells you a product. But it does this in an indirect way, by selling you an attitude. So an SUV ad sells you some kind of masculinity combined with some kind of couch potato TV watching mentality. Out there, in Nature, watching it flow past you like on TV, through the windows of your gigantic SUV.

The best, shortest version of this I ever saw was a motorbike ad in the 70s: “Free with every bike: you.” When you buy the bike, even when you think about buying the bike, you are buying into an attitude.

William Burroughs: the dealer does not sell junk to the junkie, but vice versa.

The Liar relies on the fact that “I” am not “I.” I do not coincide with myself, either in sentences or outside of them. So Hegel's idea that ideas bundle attitudes is intrinsically hard if you cleave rigidly to the law of noncontradiction.

How to Teach the Phenomenology of Spirit to Undergrads

@philosophyerin just asked a very pertinent question, since I'm about to do it today! So here goes.

How you teach Hegel to undergrads is very much how you teach Blake to undergrads. Blake and Hegel are fascinated by how ideas come bundled with attitudes, or as Lacan calls them, subject positions. If you think about it this is what phenomenological sincerity means, in part. Ideas are not floating around in some neutral space. Just think of the notion of “welfare” or “entitlements.” What Americans call welfare the Brits call social security: whole different attitude, right?

Think of a perspective painting. It has a vanishing point. The vanishing point determines how you look at the picture. If you look at it at a funny angle, the picture makes no sense. If you line up just right in relation to the vanishing point, it looks 3D. The vanishing point in a picture is the subject position of that picture. It's IN the picture, not in you. Bad news for subjectivists and for a certain freedom of choice theory. 

The fun for Blake and Hegel is to figure this out. In the 70s the fun available in UK newspapers was called spot the ball. A bunch of players on a football pitch: figure out where the ball is. Hegel and Blake play a perverse version of this called spot the player. There's a ball hanging in space (the idea). You have to figure out where the player is who kicked it there.

Okay. Now we're ready to proceed to the next part. The attitudes ideas code for are implicit or as we might now say unconscious. No one really includes them when they think about ideas. Hegel's genius is to include them. His way of arguing is not to attack an idea head on, but to explore the limitations of the attitude that comes bundled with it.

Now when you “spot the player,” you collapse the idea and its attendant attitude into one gestalt. Guess what? This gestalt is now yet another idea. Which means? It codes for yet another attitude. Which you have to figure out. This goes on not just in Hegel's mind, but in the minds of those who live those ideas.

So philosophy is the history of philosophy. Not just the history of ideas that happened to occur on some external linear timeline. Time from this point of view is internal to the progress of ideas and their bundled attitudes. Once you figure out the attitude, poof—you're in a new historical moment. (Of course, you have have more fun with this than Hegel does. Ideas overlap. For instance, some of us are still living in the eighteenth century—just look at the current British government.)

Basically, I argue to my undergrads, this is what dialectics is. Not some jiggery pokery involving a thesis and an antithesis and (heaven forbid) a synthesis, but this inner temporality that has no reverse gear (you can't un-know what you know).

Lovecraft Bestiary

HT Zachary Price via Ben Woodard. This is a rather wonderful bestiary of monsters from Lovecraft. As Graham is penning his Lovecraft book right now it seems apropos...It has the whimsical punning name, Yog-Blogsoth...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Early Literary Theory Class 11

Featuring the Kantian sublime. Why speculative realism can use Kant, and why it can go beyond Kant. In particular, why and how OOO extends the Kantian idea of infinite interiority to all objects.

The film clip was the first five minutes of Contact.

“Impersonal and Individual”

Riffing on Reggie Ray's words below, Buddhism describes the essence of us not as nothing at all, but as something “impersonal and individual.” Ahh, that's nice.

Now to my OOO ears that sounds awfully like an object: withdrawn, not-me, yet unique. This is the basis of my essay OOO and Buddhism. It's also the basis for Kantian beauty: as I wrote a while back, no wonder Schopenhauer became a Buddhist.

Buddhism versus Nihilism

One of my Buddhist teachers, Reggie Ray, has an interview today in Elephant. He makes the following very pertinent remark (listen up Buddhaphobes!): 

Waylon: In my opinion, the biggest misconception among westerners regarding Buddhism involves the teachings on selflessness. People often think that Buddhism suggests that they are not there. Like everything is negated or dismissed as an illusion. It is a very nihilistic idea. Jung, in his forward to D.T. Suzuki’s Introduction to Zen said, “It is a matter of mistaking the ego for the Self.” In your book, Touching Enlightenment, you describe it as the “impersonal and individual.” So I was wondering if you take a moment and shed some light on this issue?

Reggie Ray: I find it helpful to talk about the “small self” and the “large Self.” When Buddhism talks about the ego what is meant is the small self, which is that very limited, paranoid, fearful, defensive, idea about who we are. We all carry it around—we all have this idea or concept about ourselves that we are trying to maintain. However, I wouldn’t say it doesn’t exist; obviously it exists. But it is irrelevant to the much larger, much more interesting Self, which is the large Self, and this is actually the totality of our state of being. So, when we say we need to eliminate the ego, we’re talking about eliminating the strict, imprisoning concept of ourselves. 

As you mentioned, obviously the ego exists. We can see the consequences of it; all the tension and anxiety. Lama Yeshe once said, “The ego exists. It just exists as an illusion.” So would you agree that the ego enjoys only an illusory existence? Does ego exist as nothing more than a misunderstanding?

Reggie Ray: I think that sort of language is hard for westerners to understand. Now, the fact that we think the ego is solid and real that is an illusion. It isn’t solid and real. Many times in life we have these experiences where it is not operating. All of us do, but we ignore those experiences, and we act as if this concept is the actual reality of who we are. When we see the concept of ego everything is fine. We see the concept, and we know that our true Self is much bigger and a lot more interesting than that concept. But when we take that concept to be reality, and start rejecting the parts of ourselves that don’t fit that concept, we have a major problem. Then we have neurosis and psychological illness.

Hearts and Stones, Melbourne

This looks like it will be a great event. Featuring Jeffrey Cohen, who already has evocatively terse descriptions of OOO, ANT and vibrant matter lined up.

July 28-30 2011, University College, The University of Melbourne

How do the emotions shape and structure human interactions with stone? Do these emotions change over time and in different cultural topographies? How can stone help us write the history of emotions?

This interdisciplinary collaboratory interrogates the history of European and Indigenous Australian relationships with stone. It will feature wide-ranging discussion about continuities and discontinuities in emotional expression and feeling, from medieval Europe to contemporary Australia, in a range of artistic, geographic, architectural and other cultural contexts. Stone is a powerful marker of time and memory, a still point through changing temporalities. It has the capacity to help us think — and feel — about time.

Stone in Australia carries a complex set of emotional associations with English and European cultural heritage, especially around religious, civic and educational institutions. How does a settler culture translate those associations into a new, local landscape? How do ideas about landscape, nation and home change, in new and radically different topographies? Can we compare European and Indigenous Australian relationships with stone?

The conference will begin with a free public lecture by Jeffrey J. Cohen, 'Feeling Stone', in the Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre, 6:00, Thursday July 28:

Our vocabulary for stone is impoverished. We describe rock as dumb, mute, unfeeling, unyielding, recalcitrant. Stone can sometimes be invoked as a witness, but most often its testimony is silent, an unfeeling trigger to affect, a passive reminder of tragic human histories. This talk excavates a lithic counter-tradition: stone not simply as a spur to human emotion, but as a lively substance possessed of agency, motility, artistry, and possibly even a soul. Surveying work by medieval and contemporary thinkers, from Albertus Magnus and Geoffrey of Monmouth to Gilles Deleuze, Elizabeth Grosz and Roger Caillois, I argue that stone invites us to a nonanthropocentric approach of ecologies, landscapes, texts and art.

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (MEMSI) at the George Washington University. He received his BA from the University of Rochester studying English, Classics and Creative Writing (1987) and his PhD from Harvard University (1992). His work explores the interrelated topics of what monsters promise; how the loosely allied schools of thought known as posthumanism might help us to better understand the literatures and cultures of the Middle Ages (and might be transformed by that encounter); the limits and the creativity of our taxonomic impulses; the complexities of time when thought outside of progress narratives; ecologies; hybridity, race, and complicated identities. He is author of Of Giants: Sex, Monsters and the Middle Ages (1997), Medieval Identity Machines (2003), and Hybridity, Identity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain (2006), and editor or co-editor of five essay collections, including Cultural Diversity in the British Middle Ages (2008), Thinking the Limits of the Body (2002) and Becoming Male in the Middle Ages (1997). He has recently been awarded a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Woodard on Schopenhauer and Process

I'm interested to see what he does with that. At Naught Thought Ben has a tantalizing post up about a shift in his thinking away from a certain Deleuzianism. In particular, I want to know more about Schopenhauer. I've liked him very much since I started to read him.


HT Jonathan Krop. 250x magnification reveals sand grains to be unique objects.

Jon Goodbun on Green Left Media

Jon Goodbun (@jongoodbun) asks this highly pertinent question:

what should green-left demands be re democratic media - what radical publishing models? democratically managed advertising with shared revenue?

So have at it my friends. 

Objects are Fragile

The foregoing is due to the simple yet counter-intuitive fact that objects are what they are, and not what they are, at the same time. They are dialetheic.

They have one foot in the grave, as it were.

Object Harmartia

The inner fragility of an object allows it to be destroyed by another object. This hamartia (Greek, "wound") constitutes the object as such in its determinacy.

Impermanence is an intrinsic feature of why an object is an object. It's a mistake on this view to see either

(1) Objects as solid lumps in stream of time that gradually wears them down.

(2) Objects as reifications of a temporal flux, overmined by that flux.

(3) Objects as decomposable into parts (undermining).

(4) Fragility/death as an occurrence that "happens to" an object from without.

Fragility is an ontological condition of objects. It doesn't depend on non-objects.

By contrast, (1) through (4) explain fragility by adding to or subtracting from the object.