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

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dipesh Chakrabarty Liveblog 6: Now That's What I Call Speculative Realist History

David Archer et al. put human history back into Earth history. Curt Stager, Deep Future. The planet will take care of things. But it will be a very long period, this taking care. Thus the problem of future generations comes up.

Stephen Gardiner, A Perfect Moral Storm (game theory): the crisis is not like a traditional environmental problem. The usual one is that of the commons. Narayan et al. are based on this commons problematic. Gardener: in the tragedy of the commons, the people are present. But the climate problem is futural. Hurricanes etc. are to do with the past. Future generations are not there to argue with us. So the question of moral responsibility becomes even more problematic and acute.

When DC reads an economist writing on climate change, he sees a can do story about a fixable problem. Archer's book begins as a deep lesson in humility. We come late to Earth. We suddenly feel ourselves “outscaled” by the crisis we face, as Tim Morton said to me (!).

How to communicate the urgency of a problem that affects people that far out?

Imagine if the Greeks had found cheap oil. And we had to deal with the effects of that. Would we still think of them as a pinnacle of Western civilization?

“We shall fight the greenhouse effect with the Whitehouse effect.” E.g. Romney: just legislate that there is no human CO2 effect! The gagging of Jim Hansen at NASA. Hansen was having lunch with Gore who introduced him to Jim Lehrer: “The crisis happens in thirty to fifty years? If it's not happening now it won't make news.”

Most policy makers think about physics not palaeo-history.
Just because you can't act, it doesn't make it untrue. (Nice one DC!)

We humanists are allied with the useless scientists...

If the problem is capitalism, then it's a problem of sovereignty. The human is a figure of sovereignty.


In the palaeo sense, humanity is a FORCE. How force becomes a category in Newton. In pre-Socratic philosophy force was moral: if God's creation is harmonious why should there be movement? >> the sheer capacity to move things.
So when they say humanity has acquired a physical force, they are saying that humans are now allied to geophysics. The relationship to earthquakes and volcanoes etc.

So it's sovereignty versus force. Force is not a figure of sovereignty. We are not talking of humanity that will feel moved. But humanity as an actual physical force. Experience as a category in the former view. But force is not available to us in experience.

Archer and Hansen thus have a problem: to bring to us something that is not directly available to us in experience.

DC thinks of species. The level at which we are a geophysical force is the way we think humans as a dominant species. Jody Hey, a book on the term species. Species are so going extinct--there is a pragmatics here. 

Wilson: we need to develop an understanding of us as species. But this is a contradiction for DC. We can know through reason, but not through understanding.

There is a fracture. The argument for AGW raises the question of what is humanity. If you look at the justice arguments, humanity can't be an operative category. There will be actions in the name of humanity (like Neil Armstrong).

If global treaties fail, if democracy fails...then powerful countries through private sector may be adopt the option of geo engineering. DC can't imagine that not being militarized. Like space tech. So there is a price to be paid for humanity not being an operative category.

If you read the useless scientists, humanity is a cognitively operative category. There is a decollage. A fracture. A crack. It's not reasonable to expect that humanity will produce itself as a political category.

Thus climate change is a wicked problem. (A technical term.) One with a rational diagnosis but no feasible rational solution. Because the windows for solving the problems don't come together to solve it, because there are so many windows. Hansen's argument to stop producing coal, period, could result in disaster in third world.

So we have to carry on until we find alternatives. For another tech to be viable plentiful and cheap, will take 50 to 70 years. So then we must assume that we will use major amounts of nuclear. And so on.

A wicked problem is even more wicked in the sense that we can't come together to rationally act on the rational solution. There is a rational public fallacy--“If only I could speak to the President straight.” There is not a rational public out there.

There are solutions on paper, which produces the temptation for people to act in the name of humanity--like the geo engineers.

So what do useless people do? We need to struggle for the democratic alternative, however impossible it seems. We need to bring a sense of the seriousness not just for now but for the future--beyond the immediacy. We know as humanists that we can't produce this without new metaphors. This will be done by humanists, film makers, painters, art movements. Scientists are speaking to the need for new metaphors. To place our understanding of ourselves in the context of Earth history and the history of life on this planet.

For a long time we have written history on the assumption that there is human evolution, but it doesn't come into view. The use of the pelvis in childbirth. Until now we wrote histories by taking evolution for granted. But the crisis brings to the fore the question of Earth, evolution, life history. A lot of this will have to be the background noise we carry in our heads, as humanists.

Now that's what I call speculative realist history!!!

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