“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, January 31, 2013

Words and Photos by Morton and Thomas

"Kissing in the Shadow." In Continent.

Viral Guns

Thoughts are viruses. Images are viruses. Objects are viruses. Chairs are viruses. Guns are viruses. Adam Lanza's mom bought those guns for home defense, a point that was lost in the blather about the "extraordinary testimony" of the mother in support of home defense yesterday in Congress.

Just as some humans are vectors for chairs, humans can also be vectors for guns.

In future archaeological digs by aliens, some parts of Earth will have enormous strata of chair parts and others will have layer upon layer of gun parts.


Stephen King's Latest

"GUNS." 99 cents on Kindle. Why haven't you read it yet? It's just a great piece of writing.

Geological Time in a Few Seconds

A glacier calving, the most massive one ever captured on film. It is calving because of global warming, which is because of the Anthopocene, which is how human history now intersects with geological time. Thanks to Rick Muller. From the movie Chasing Ice.

Space Weather

Thanks to Nick Srnicek, I now know about this:

a region’s agriculture is vulnerable to variations in space weather if it meets three conditions: the local weather must be sensitive to space weather; the local agriculture must be critically vulnerable to sudden changes in weather; and finally, the region must be isolated.


medieval England ... is vulnerable because it is in the north Atlantic, dependent on wheat which is vulnerable to weather changes and also isolated from mainland Europe.


“All the nine cycles of solar activity during this period are characterized by systematically excessive wheat prices in the years of solar activity minimum, as compared with the prices during the next maximum"...

Virginia Talk Title Change

“The Dark Side of the Household Object,” March 22.

Weird Essentialism at Notre Dame (CFP)

...that's the title of my talk in October for the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (see “Future Talks”). Here is the cfp (also click here for PDF):

The 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts

Location Notre Dame, Indiana. Venue University of Notre Dame. Dates October 3–6, 2013. Site Coordinator Laura Dassow Walls, Department of English, University of Notre Dame. Program Chair Ron Broglio, Department of English, Arizona State University. Paper Proposal Due Date May 1, 2013. Notification of Acceptance June 15, 2013. SLSA Membership Participants in the 2013 conference must be 2013 members of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. For more information about SLSA, please visit the organization website at www.litsci.org .

CALL FOR PAPERS. Conference theme: PostNatural. What does it mean to come “after” nature? In 2012, Arctic ice melted to the lowest level in human history; with ice everywhere in retreat, island nations are disap- pearing, species vectors are shifting, tropical diseases are moving north, northern natures-cultures are moving into extinction. Acidification of ocean water already threatens Northwest shellfish farms, while historic wildfires, droughts, floods, and shoreline erosion are the norm. Reality overshoots computer models of global warming even as CO2 emissions escalate. Yet none of this has altered our way of living or our way of thinking: as Fredric Jameson noted, we can imagine the collapse of the planet more easily than the fall of capitalism. What fundamental reorientations of theory—of posthu- manity and animality, of agency, actants, and aporias, of bodies, objects, assemblages and networks, of computing and cognition, of media and bioart—are needed to articulate the simple fact that our most mundane and ordinary lives are, even in the span of our own lifetimes, unsustainable? If we have never been natural, are we now, at last, ecological?

TOPICS AND QUESTIONS INCLUDE. Unsustainability: in biological terms, can we “stain” to make the “unsustainable” visible? Globality vs. Planetarity Beyond Gaia Resilience Theory and Panarchy Geological Time: Pliocene, Holocene, Anthropocene Literature, Theology & the New Ecology Symbiosis after Margulis Animality, Vegetality, & Somatic Natures Ecologies of Mind Environmental Gaming & Gaming Environments Simulated Ecosystems The Language of Engineering, Control, Hacking and Techno-fixes Ecoterrorism and Nature Noir Cosmopolitical Projects Waste Lands: Stains, Toxins, Dumps, Refuse, Pollutions Nature, Post-Nature, and the Politics of Ecology Feminist & Diffractive Materialisms Imagined Eco-Futures

Plenary Speakers Include Timothy Morton and Subhankar Banerjee

PLEASE NOTE. Like all SLSA conferences, this is an open conference where a wide range of work will be welcome. Proposed topics may take up any work in literature and science, history of science, philosophy of science, science and art, or science studies. “PostNatural” has been chosen as a theme to organize ongoing conference threads and invite a range of proposals from various dimensions of ecocriti- cism and environmental literature and history.

SUBMISSIONS. For panel contributions, submit a 250-word abstract with title. Pre-organized panels for consid- eration may include an additional summary paragraph along with proposed session title. Roundta- ble and alternative format panels are encouraged. Submit all proposals and register for the confer- ence at http://www.litsci.org/slsa13, starting in February 2013.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Do You Get It Now Conservatives?

Stephen Colbert is not on your side...

Have You Ever Met a Dog like Whiskers?

Have you ever met a dog like Whiskers?
He's cute and funny and a silly little boy.
Have you ever met a dog like Whiskers?
No you haven't cos he's actually a cat.

--Claire (8)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fascist Robots

"Schwarzenegger's political career was identical to his aesthetic one. He was a fascist robot who fought against worse fascist robots, with the explicit intention of destroying girlie men, but with the implicit result of dissolving himself in the burning lead of masculinity."

Graham Priest at Rice

Click to download.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quantum Smell

I used this in researching Realist Magic: the original research a couple of years ago was in fruit flies. They smell not the shape of the molecule directly touching a receptor, but a quantum vibration, somewhat nonlocally.

The thing is, quantum phenomena at this scale begin to put paid to the standard model...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Mathematical Logic of Death

It is intimately related to physical size, which means that physicality and death are intertwined. Told you. Trees are fragile, because planets are fragile.

Nothingness: The Real Threat

What a nice blog. Mahamudra and Dzogchen are very similar approaches and I have benefited from both, though technically I am Dzogchen.

Speculative Realism (video)

Graham Harman - Purdue Talk (Jan.14.2013) from Andrew Iliadis on Vimeo.

By Harman at Purdue. Harman, Garcia, Grant on the one hand. Meillassoux on the other.


I love what Zizek says about atonal music. I think he is a closet Schellingian who only believes he is a Hegelian, personally. He writes so incredibly well in that mode.

So I'm listening to Stockhausen. I don't have everything he did by any means but I've been into it since I was 12.

The HMV chain is having trouble in the UK. When I was 12 I used to go down into the basement of the Oxford Street store and pour over the contemporary music as if it was from another world (it is). The smell of the vinyl and the plastic sleeves the record sleeves came in.

My first purchase from there was Stockhausen's Mantra. Still amazing to me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Graham Harman, Art and Paradox

Very very nice. Paradox as dialetheia, really. From our thing in France. Also a major opening statement on epistemism.

Harman Cake

That's a damn fine book cake.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Right Won't Be Happy Until There Is a Machine that Can Reverse Entropy

...cynicism loves to mock solar. "But it costs energy to make!" "But it's a bourgeois affectation!"

Using 3D printers these guys can make a panel every few minutes. Good enough for me.

"But can it reverse entropy?" No Mr. Cynic. But according to Cal Tech, whom I generally trust, solar is the alternative to carbon.

Rosa Parks by Claire Morton (8)

Rosa Parks on a bus,
Lightning of justice strikes down.
Thunder the voice of the King speaking his dream.
Rain, a waterfall of justice raining down,
Raining down on the 50 states of America.
Forever let freedom and justice ring.

Musical Freedom

...by Adeva and Paul Simpson.

Can You Feel It

In our house it's traditional on MLK day to play this. “Can You Feel It” by Mr. Fingers. We visited a graveyard of freed slaves that is just up the street from us, in the historic Fourth Ward. Wordsworth would have found it spine chilling.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Chairs are all trying to kill you. I have just realized that one particular chair is responsible for this chronic whiplash that I have, a whiplash that is worse than (so I read online) most of the worst whiplash from high speed car impacts.

Turns out my mum has been suffering for months with a terrible back, and that my grandfather had to have two vertebrae fused in his upper spine.

Why? The same chair. See?

Now the trouble is, some chairs convince you that they are not all that bad. They might kill you more slowly, in effect, and look! They are so beautiful. Like these ones (below). I just bought four of the suckers. I love dark orange.

Why I Don't Call It "Climate Change" and Never Shall

I just wrote this for the intro of Hyperobjects:

The end of the world is correlated with the Anthropocene, its global warming and subsequent drastic climate change, whose precise scope remains uncertain while its reality is verified beyond question. Throughout Hyperobjects I shall be calling it global warming and not climate change. Why? Whatever the scientific and social reasons for the predominance of “climate change” over “global warming” for naming this particular hyperobject, the effect in social and political discourse is plain enough. There has been a decrease in appropriate levels of concern. Indeed, denialism is able to claim that “climate change” is merely the rebranding of a fabrication, nay evidence of this fabrication in flagrante delicto. On the terrain of media and the sociopolitical, “climate change” has been such a failure that one is tempted to see the term itself as a kind of denial, a reaction to the radical trauma of unprecedented global warming. That the terms are presented as choices rather than as a package is a symptom of this failure, since it is logically the case that it is correct to say “climate change as a result of global warming,” where “climate change” is just a compression of a more detailed phrase, a metonymy. 

If this is not the case, then “climate change” as a substitute for “global warming” is like “cultural change” as a substitute for Renaissance, or “change in living conditions” as a substitute for Holocaust. “Climate change” as substitute enables cynical reason (both right wing and left) to say that “climate has always been changing,” which to my ears sounds like “people have always been killing one another” as a fatuous reason not to control the sale of machine guns. What we desperately need is an appropriate level of shock and anxiety concerning a specific ecological trauma--indeed, the ecological trauma of our age, the very thing that defines the Anthropocene as such. This is why I shall be sticking with the phrase global warming in this book. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Soil Away

HT Cliff Gerrish. This is a very interesting thing that I had not thought about.

"Values and Uncertainties in the Predictions of Global and Regional Climate Models"

By Eric Winsberg, today at Rice:
history of philosophy Chicago
Science in the Age of Computer Simulation
editing a collection of essays on time and chance

quantifying uncertainties
computer models and in the last decade, a lot of attention on quantifying the degree of uncertainty
we know the models are imperfect
don’t give perfect models of future
technical difficulties: expensive, long time to run, lots of parameters, structural uncertainties
statistical problems
and also conceptual difficulties
so let’s try to understand why UQ (uncertainty quantification) is important
and can UQ goals be met?

UQ: can communicate knowledge from experts to policymakers, to make the experts play the kind of role that we think they ought to play
suppose we live near a glacial lake; glaciers can melt, a glacial dam can burst: should we build a dam?
the only people well positioned to answer are climate experts
and this relates to our values: how much do we value the money versus the costs (lives lost, architectural treasures lost, hard to put money value on some things)
so can climate scientists quantify the likelihood and the rest of us can decide what to do?

>> put expertise into its proper role

this kind of climate science knowledge is what interests me (Winsberg): the scope, pace, tempo, regional complexity of changes in climate
the question of whether cc is happening is answered
the cause question is answered
so when I talk about uncertainties I’m not talking about the general question of whether it’s happening
but the granularity

tool for communication to policy makers
separating the epistemic and the normative
normative questions are for all of us to decide
one central question is, can UQ do that job?
can this division of labor be maintained?
yes to the extent that UQ can do the job

only to the extent that the appraisal of scientific hypotheses can be free of “non-epistemic values”
ethical, social, political vs truth conducive ones such as simplicity, fruitfulness, scope, predictive accuracy

no scientific hypothesis is ever completely verified << finite data
sufficient strength: 80% likely? etc
<< a function of the iportance of making a mistake
>> a scientist makes value judgments

A toxic ingredient of a drug is not present in lethal quantity
A certain lot of machine stamped belt buckles is not defective

You would think (1) requires greater sureness

Should we accept hypothesis that there will be a glacial lake outburst flood in a particular area, given future emissions?
How sure we need to be before we accept it depends on our values?

Richard Jeffrey
premise 1 that your job is to accept or reject hypotheses is false
It’s the job to assign probabilities to hypotheses with respect to currently available evidence
this assignment may involve subjective judgments but it can eliminate the role of non-epistemic values
subjective Bayesian for instance (but these judgments don’t depend on values)

UQ in climate models
how successful can climate science be in UQ in a way that is value free: the Jeffrey story on the job of science

Structural model uncertainty
Parameter uncertainty
Data uncertainty

Data uncertainty: models calibrated against the past (ice ages etc)
Ice cores and tree rings are not thermometers, not perfect records of the past

Even if we knew what the perfect model looked like, they have lots of parameters
We are uncertain as to their value (such as g for gravity); but some are there to fill in gaps in the fact that our simulations are discrete and nature is continuous
e.g. cloud formation << humidity
our best models are 1km wide; we don’t know the parameter value
And we don’t even know what the ideal model structure is

There are 6 major models
Given different emission scenarios all models predict different things, because they have different structure
Model climate in slightly different ways
There is some uncertainty << model structure: how much? Is the question

So let’s just stick with model structure (we can make similar points about other uncertainties)
One way is by using ensemble estimates
Get mean projection 
Use standard deviation
>> Average thing you expect (e.g. the curve plus or minus two standard deviations)

Tebaldi and Knutti (2007)
UQ << different ensembles are wildly different

Problems with ensemble averages: 
1 Assume all models equally good. Or you can weight them but how?
2 Assume models are independent
3 Ignore that models have shared histories that are hard to sort out
4 Ignore the herd mentality about success

(humorous example about measuring a barn)
history of the measurement of the speed of light: the value that seemed right would stick for a while (because of herd mentality)

Knutti et al 2010: “Defining performance metrics that demonstrably relate to prediction skill remains a largely unresolved problem.”

Cleckler et al 2008: “Forming a single index of model performance, however, can be misleading...”

Allen 2008: “tuning their flagship models to fit the same observations...eventually they will also converge”

Multi-model averages << contingent history of model development, which involves value judgments
Models have been optimized to particular purposes and particular metrics of success
Model choices have reflected balances of inductive risk
Model choices have been made “consciously or by natural selection” to follow the herd

These averages do not meet the Rudnerian standard for objectivity

Heather Douglas
scientists often have to make methodological choices that do not lie on a continuum
e.g. choosing between two possible staining techniques
methodological choices usually involve a complex mixture of value judgment and epistemic expertise
>> can experts make the right judgment after the fact?
>> compare classical T-tests to Bayesian approaches

It’s not that scientists can make totally correct judgments
Could it be that scientists can pick one stain or another and have a good sense of the data they get and make a judgment about the probabilities in a value neutral way
Methodological choices doesn’t necessarily imply that their results are value laden
Unless they are doing rote testing after the fact

Bayesian response to the Douglas challenge
It is no threat to the value neutrality for scientists to make value-motivated discreet choices
As long as probabilities can be evaluated later by experts in a value neutral way

Climate models could make this challenge unsuccessful: 
1) Size and complexity
2) Distributed epistemic agency
3) Inscrutability due to generative entrenchment

for instance, consider NOAA’s GFDL CM2.x model: 
contains 1 million + lines of code
thousand parameter options
hundreds of initialization files
incomplete documentation
tens of terabytes of data per model year run
weeks to produce one model run to 2100 on the fastest clusters
complex and interactive modularity

(ocean atmosphere core, then modules for precipitation, carbon sinks and so on and so on)

climate models reflect the work of hundreds of researchers working in different physical locations and at different times
Distributed over time as well as discipline
Legacy codes eliminated, but the science that was credentialed for building the modules has been preserved, and procedural decisions; we can’t make them fresh every time we build a model

>> Melinda Fagan on group knowledge (is there group justification? and so on)
>> group authorship: can such a group be epistemically accountable for what they do?
No one has a good clear view of the entirety of what they are doing

generative entrenchment (Winsberg’s paper): the historical path dependency of models; as you make choices you lock in successful features in a way that you can’t get analytic penetrability on
analytic impenetrability
the ability to attribute the various sources of success and failure of different models, in reproducing known data, to particular model assumptions extremely difficult or even impossible
AI makes epistemically inscrutable the effects of past methodological choices

Path dependency of the models: late in their history no one has a clear view of how the choices have affected the success and failure of the model
if the models are huge and complex, developed by distributed groups, and at the end of their history you can’t see how they succeed or fail based on the choices you made
>> implausible that experts can dispassionately assess impact of judgments on uncertainty

Standard Rudnerian values (choose between options on basis of inductive risk)
Predictive preference (on basis of trade offs between importance of different prediction tasks)
difficult to disentangle how methodological choices have impacted 

Two different visions
An old example: climate change versus global warming
<< heating versus crop failure (<< precipitation)? well you can’t decide
In fact: methdological choices are buried in the historical past under the complexity, epistemic distributiveness, and generative entrenchment of climate models. I am: 
not in the business of making historical, sociological, or psychological claims
avoid attributing to the relevant actors any psychological motives, nor any particular specifiable or recoverable se of interests
for many of the same reasons that these method choices are immune from BRDC, they are also relatively opaque to us from a historical, philosophical and sociological point of view

The main claim: any attempt to rationally reconstruct past methodological choices could only justify them against some set of predictive preferences and some balance of inductive risks!
can’t be about specific values having played a role
as a matter of logic

values in the nooks and crannies: buried in vastly complex models

commonly thought that scientists ought to
* be more self-conscious in their value choices
* ensure that their values reflect those of the people they serve
* implement some system for determining public opinions

But none of these will work. Precisely when the values have to be in the nooks and crannies and none of these strategies are available...is when you have to worry!


"Solar is the only viable alternative to carbon. But your solar panels are a bourgeois affectation." Discuss.

I Just Like the Way He Writes

You should look into your confusion further. You should push into it instead of closing yourself off. In that way, you just keep opening and unfolding, like flowers in the summertime. Even though they are exposed to the weather, to the wind and rain, flowers still keep unfolding themselves, until finally they bloom at their best. You could be like the flowers: you could let the bees sit on you and take your honey away, and that would be fine. You should not take time off from your confusion, or from the inconvenience or embarrassment of seeing that confusion.
--Trungpa Rinpoche

Safety in Numbers

For some reason “Ecology without Agriculture” (mp3) has been the most popular post the most rapidly ever. Yesterday about 5000 hits on that one alone, which is something of a record.

Karen Pinkus at Rice on Climate Change

By popular demand. These are the raw data. I think I got almost everything but it's rather telegraphic.

Karen's talk was called “Fuel = Hope?”

1783 Palace of Versailles
Montgolfiers on the launch pad
“Montgolfier gas” 
>> hydrogen
dream of generating energy from nothing, very long standing
Guy Negre, air cars
Victorian clocks, breaks, guns: must compress air by force
image of free floating balloon << dirty difficult labor of extractive industries
labor of auto industries: paradigm of wages and unions, surveillance and living conditions
to call on air as a fuel is to move outside of the carbon present to a utopian fantasy
mutlicultural and yet patriotic labor forces
not in the struggle against capital but in its very dedication to nature
future fuels are perpetually deferred
strengthens relation of carbon and economy
view that ethics and power are antithetical
marketers who try to reconcile them only strengthen the distinction
VW brochure for clean diesel
“so will you forfeit power in exchange for doing good?”
answer no suggests power and ethics are indeed incompatible

Bouchere automaton of gold lions for the Kahn spouting wine, and so on
angel playing the trumpet
hiding a man underneath the contraption

Antonioni Red Desert: on environmental devastation
protagonist awoken by an ambient sound
son is asleep yet robot appears to have started on its own

perpetual motion machines must also be wound up

to distinguish fuels from energy systems
fuel as pure flowing potentiality -- why they may be hope

transition of fuel to energy hard to represent: rays, etc
(candle flame Nagarjuna)
potentiality implies power and yet simultaneously describes a state prior to use of power
potential and kinetic energy (physics)
but let us put aside this for now

energeia: Aristotle << argon (act, deed); enactment
all matter has energeia, the activity tending towards its entelechy
the sheer potential is dynamis (before it’s on its way to telos)

>> much later as motive force or power

1842 Britannica: energy as a term of greek origin as “power virtue or efficacy of a thing”
1899: six pages long entry in Britannica
is it legitimate to speak of energy prior to 1800
Bruno Latour might say no

“fuel” is much older than “energy”
OE << French fule, Old French foal (a bundle of firewood)
focalia: the right to demand material for making fire (Latin law)
focalis: pertaining to the hearth << focus (hearth)

contrast pyros and ignis

Hestia, Vesta; focus, focalia >> fuel

Hestia an ambiguous goddess rarely depicted save as woman holding a staff

wes, to dwell or stay (Indo-European root); Heidegger
hearth as space of protection of oikos

1800s--fuel expands to the bundles of firewood

<< homes heated by wood gathered in forests or charcoal

air distinct from fuel; it does not emit heat
does not qualify as a Marxian raw material
Capital 1. Marx not concerned with fuel, not a term he uses
no significance for human labor power in factory
machines: motor mechanism, transmission, tool
either generates its own mode of power (steam, caloric, electromagnetic)
or << already existing natural force (wind, water)

engine more reliable because you don’t have to rely on stream or other conditions
“a system of machinery ... constitutes a huge automaton whenever it is driven by a self-acting prime mover” (Marx)
may require aid of workmen for some movements (mule carriage etc)
that would be such a great song title

as a literary scholar what does this have to do with poetics
or figures

Macherey, French 1966
uncannily one of his central texts was the novel Pinkus is thinking about, in debt to Robinson Crusoe
recommended to Emile
appreciated by boys in French 3rd republic
Jules Verne, Mysterious Island (1874)

exemplary for this method
explicit ideology of conquest of nature, harnessing of fuels as energy
also always colonialist (as Macherey notes)
for thinking the limits of criticism

slave, ape etc can transfer fuels from waiting to use almost immediately
all texts contain some kind of mystery or decollage between what author thinks he’s doing and what the text is really doing
we should return to texts such as Macherey to remind ourselves why we read in certain ways though we have internalized this

would such an astute critic be comfortable with repeating the book’s own structure
the real decollage of the novel lies beyond the plot or askew from it
in another theme: mobilis in mobile (man as a subject in a mobile universe)
coal >> electricity in Verne’s time
prediction of efficient coal machines in Australia and America
“without coal no more machines”

Cyrus Smith: in the future there will come a clean free form of fuel, water broken down by electricity will replace coal
“water is the coal of the future”
nothing about the energetic force required to make water into a fuel
a true rupture in the text, interrupted by barking of dog and ape

only one passage in the large portfolio of energy forms in the novel

but what if mobilis in mobile stands as a mode of reading
novels are all about the future in the present
deferral of water as a future fuel if we read Verne as mobile subjects
anxiety that all fuels may be used up and discovered
but the form of mobilis in mobile used in reading
fiction rather than science as the ideal way to discuss the conquest of nature = the nature of fuels
mobilis in mobile will have to persist
this is the pressure point of the novel
contradiction that Macherey encourages us to find

Agamben via Heidegger on dynamis and energeia
latter term should not be confused with energy
rather these concern being, the human capacity to do something
what does it mean to have a faculty 
to be able to...
to be able to pass or not pass into action
Aristotle: dynamis maintains itself in relation to its own privation or nonbeing
a thing is said to be potential if when it is realized there is nothing in potential
the property of adynamia belongs to all dynamis for Agamben
so one could decide NOT to manufacture or use a fuel
dynamis has to do with being

potentiality to not-be that belongs to potentiality
thus when the potentiality passes fully into actuality
dynamis preserves itself as such in energeia
bringing wholly into the act as such

Derrida complicates any neat distinction between these terms
a “new era” in which we can’t distinguish between the virtual and the real (potentiality and actuality)
virtuality is inscribed in structure of event produced
affects time and space of image
everything that connects us to the actuality
doesn’t mention climate change or Anthropocene
yet it’s important to keep his words in mind for us

a kernel of hope in Agamben
not that we will find an alternative
nor that we will find a way to capture and store carbon
nor for a green revolution
or individual behavior in conservation of energy
conservation as the weak reform ensuring expenditure like the Factory Acts in Marx’s time

thus not fuels are consumed in energy
potentiality conserves itself IN actuality
potentiality survives actuality
and gives itself to itself
salvation analogy >> fuels? physical world? or remains in world of being?

if no power over that which is not being
fuels can only wait for us to not use them... !

Anne. How potentiality is connected not to conservation but to the maximum capacity of human growth
this potential has already been used in terms of how we construct these terms
>> conservation discourse as a step back from the idea of usable reserves but also a minority discourse
potentiality <> usable-ness
AND: fuel >> energy as a literary method. Algeria movement of postcolonial France and Algeria. Can you comment? 

Karen: Allan Stoekl. Question of maximum capacity. We don’t have a crisis of a lack of energy, we have plenty of energy and should expend it massively. 
we need to expend even MORE energy...
things like “reserves” and “conservation” are undone by this book
shows how that is inscribed in logic that got us into the problem we are in now

fuel as figure and energy as discourse (in Lyotardian terms)
fuel might disrupt discourse

At what point does the fuel-energy loop begin?

me: Nagarjuna and al-Ghazzali (and OOO); occasionalism and magic

Foucault 1978
Western philosophy as machine that should just function like capital, we shouldn’t or mustn’t or can’t think outside of the West, or we should just allow China and India to “develop”--thinking otherwise would be orientalism

actuality as inert and dead (Dominic)
Dominic: electricity? as a system of energy?
Karen: it has to be fueled! 

Joe: contemporary artists trying to turn energy back into fuel
Karen: fictional fuels, fuels that don’t work out

coal and oil
base material and only after refining they become noble? when they are consumed?
turning energy back into fuel: reverse transmutation, a fear that a lot of early modern alchemists had

q on “the risk of ontologizing fuel”
objects enfueled (as against one of Bestand, we have it available)
A: I worry about reifying fuel, what am I not seeing about it...
I don’t have an answer to that
That is part of the process I’m going through
“the good thing before ‘bad’ energy”

Derek: perpetual motion machine
fantasy of being outside of thermodynamic time
narratives of deep time; fossil fuels lie under earth and then spent in an instant
how do those two fantasies relate to the conservation discourse
A: a text that you read that never has a beginning or an end (just development in my sense)
Dipesh: temporality in the sense of geological time
temporality of subsurface maybe doesn’t correspond very well to human narratives and literary texts
any attempts to narrativize deep time are flawed and fail to acknowledge the incredible difference between the realms
the idea of adequation through narrative is hard to believe

there is an encyclopedic quality of fuel: lots of different types; if you have a watermill why do you need a windmill?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Algorithmic Plants

Don't shoot the messenger!

Princeton Talk

Hey Princeton, this is what I'm going to talk about with you. At the symposium “The Secret Life of Plants” in May:


Schopenhauer argues that plants are manifestations of will—they just grow. In this sense, plants are just like algorithms, since algorithms don't know anything about number, they just execute computations. Thus algorithmic models of plants work just like plants, hence the success of the beautiful book The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants. A flower is a plot of an algorithm.

In this sense, a trope is an algorithm—a twist of language that emerges as meaning, by simply following a recipe (such as “jam two nouns together with the verb to be between them”). A trope is a flower of rhetoric, which is imagined as vegetative (anthos, hence anthology). Thus Milton's Satan curls around like a snake trying to turn into a vine.

That's what is disturbing about rhetoric and algorithms and plants and Satan—they exhibit a zero degree of intelligence, or not…we can't know in advance. Plants disturb us with what Lacan says “constitutes pretense”: “in the end, you don't know whether it's pretense or not.” They might be lying, which in a sense means that they are lying.

Just as an algorithm could pass a Turing Test—I could discern thinking and personhood in this “blind” execution—so plants are posing, and passing Turing Tests all the time. In looking at a flower, you are doing the flower's job. Bees complete the Test all the time, by following the flower's nectar lines. Or, as Schopenhauer puts it, plants want to be known, because they can't quite know themselves.

Indeed, a plant in this sense is the zero degree of personhood—as Nietzsche said, people are halfway between plants and ghosts. This zero degree is a weird, twisted loop that says something like “This is not just a plant.” Consider the zero degree of the Cartesian cogito: the paranoia that I might simply be a puppet of some demonic external force. Isn't this just the creeping sensation that I might just be a vegetable?

In this sense, T.S. Eliot's line about flowers is perfect, from the plant's own point of view: “The roses / Had the look of flowers that are looked at.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ecology without Agriculture (MP3)

Here is my talk at the Anthropology Department today. What a great discussion. And the conversation with the Ph.D. students was really excellent over lunch too. Thanks everyone!

Versus Eurocentrism

Despite their oft stated intentions, contemporary philosophers of Europe and the USA are still at it.

This al-Jazeera piece gets it pretty right.

One thing I like about Graham's work a lot: he bothered to read Islamic and Chinese philosophy.

What they're saying about the UVA close read-off

"It's going to be like when Christopher Ricks lectured on Dylan. Only much, much worse."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sussex Talk

May 21: “The Only Emergency Is the Lack of Emergency: Reflections on Creativity in the Anthropocene.”

May 22: student workshop.

Come again Professor Morton?

Yes that's right from the era of Derrida and cocaine, this is what I will be exploring at UVA.

UVA alternative

The other choice was John Clare. But

1. I have recently analyzed him in public.

2. Scritti Politti is very much the John Clare of 80s pop.

Virginia Poetry Analysis

There is to be some kind of criticism-off at UVA featuring me, Jennifer Wicke and Bruce Holsinger. Here is what I chose.

There's nothing I wouldn't be
To get to be together
There's nothing I wouldn't be
My heart depends on me
There's nothing I wouldn't do
Including doing nothing
There's nothing I wouldn't do
For you to be with me now sugar

Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin
Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin
Nothing, oh nothing
Because baby, baooo
I'm a would be
W. O. O. D.
I'm a would be would be
B. E. E. Z.

There's nothing I wouldn't do
To make you want for nothing
There's nothing I wouldn't do
My heart belongs to you
There's nothing we shouldn't do
To get to be so happy
There's nothing we shouldn't do
Oh, let's forget taboo now sugar

Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin
Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin
Nothing, oh nothing
Because baby, baooo
I'm a would be
W. O. O. D.
I'm a would be would be
B. E. E. Z.

Each time I love you
You know what I need to do
And each time I need you
Oh, baby you know, you know, know, kn-know

(Ooh! )
(Ooh! )
Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin
Nothing, oh nothing
Because baby, baooo
I'm a would be
I'm a would be
W. O. O. D.
I'm a would be would be
B. E. E. Z.

There's nothing I wouldn't take
Oh, even intravenous
There's nothing I wouldn't take
To get to be approved
There's nothing I wouldn't be
Oh that's the gift of schizo
There's nothing that's new to me
I've seen it all before now sugar

Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin
Each time I go to bed I pray like Aretha Franklin
Nothing, oh nothing
Because baby, baooo
I'm a would be
W. O. O. D.
I'm a would be would be
B. E. E. Z.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Art without You (video)

Tim Morton - Art Without You from The Matter of Contradiction on Vimeo.

My talk from The Matter of Contradiction, Limousin, France.

Scary Fun

I'm drafting some things to say to the Anthropology department on Wednesday. It will be about ecology, agriculture, presence--you know the score.

As a general rule one should always take an opportunity to share one's crazy mind. It is always helpful.

Wordsworth and Agriculture

I'm reading my student Eric O'Brien's work today. It has become dope.

Wordsworth Conference

I'm going to the first half of this wonderful do near Dove Cottage in late July to early August.

My talk will be called “Romantic Ecology Revisited.”

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Some New Talks

....at Virginia, Chicago, Rice and Sussex. See "Future Talks."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Stuck in a Joy Loop

Michael Tippett's Second Symphony, the presto. There is this thing that happens at 2:30. This recording is a little fast for me; I prefer Tippett's own version with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. But you'll see there are these three riffs that jam into one another in an amazing way.

It's a little known fact, however, that my dad started this band (Bournemouth) back some ago...

Graham Harman / Liam Heneghan

Two extremely nice chaps talk ecology.

Some Analogies for Global Warming

The right is at it again. "It's cold so there is no global warming." 

The cold weather is to global warming as a pair of socks is to your sock drawer.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mint the Platinum Coin

President Obama may authorize the minting of a trillion dollar coin to pay for policies that are already in place. Paying for what Congress has already done is, of course, a rather good idea.

Good idea, this coin suggestion, and not only because it would do an end run around the Republicans, who are caught in primitive defiance (in a way that endangers the world economy). It would also be an object lesson in what a sovereign power can do:

A state is not like a household in a state, contra the right wing Friedmanesque rhetoric of thirty years' vintage. Not a family. Not a person with credit card debt and a mortgage etc.

National debt and the debt ceiling are not like credit card debt and a personal credit limit.

Money is an arbitrary sign. (Just look at the way Brazil eased itself into the real, wiping its debt in a moment.) Cartoons of a gigantic coin crushing America remind me of the paper money panic in the Romantic period.

Do it, Obama.

The Original Polemic against the Chair

I may have posted this previously but it's still very good. Thanks Jordan Peacock.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Twist in the Fabric of Space

Tell it, Worf...

Objectivity in the American Press

"Some claim that global warming is caused by humans.

"Others claim that global warming is a potato who lives on Venus and calls himself Archibald McSpud."


So the data is in. It looks like we cut our driving down by 80% by relocating to the middle of a big city. The time between servicings is ridiculous compared with living in Davis.

"Reality Is Not All Grim"

Enlightenment is like witnessing the brilliant sun for the first time in the morning. It is like seeing the beautiful flowers that grow in the wood, the frolicking deer, a bird flying proudly, or fish swimming. Life is not all that grim. In the morning you brush your teeth, you can see how shiny they are. Reality has its own gallantry, spark, and arrogance. You can study life while you are alive. You can study how you can achieve the brilliance of life. 
--Chögyam Trungpa

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rice Seminar on Catastrophe

We are talking about Eugene Thacker's In the Dust of This Planet. And Cormac McCarthy's The Road.  Jeffrey Kripal is presenting. Nice one. I'm wired that way I guess, although it was mega mega sad to read McCarthy's book today.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rice Clases Today

Practices in Literary Study

Professor Timothy Morton
01:00PM - 02:15PM TR BKH 102

Literature and Ecology: Aesthetics in the Anthropocene

Spring 2013
4:00PM–5:15PM TR BKH 229
Professor Timothy Morton

In the late eighteenth century, humans began to deposit a thin layer of carbon in Earth's crust, a layer that is now detectable in Arctic ice and in deep lakes. There thus begun what geology now calls the Anthropocene.

The literary period from the eighteenth century, though long, contains some remarkable similarities both in terms of content and in terms of form, similarities that we can now study under the aegis of the term Anthropocene.

In addition to investigating how literatures in English tackle (or not) the Anthropocene, this capstone seminar will be exploring the ways in which literary criticism and theory, and philosophy more generally, has (and has not) addressed the topic of human intervention in ecological and geological reality.